Date of Award

4-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Environmental Science and Biology

Abstract

While often attempted, successfully associating fish species with in-stream and riparian land use habitat variables has been problematic in fisheries literature. To explore such associations in the west branch of Sandy Creek, Orleans County, New York, I sampled 12 in-stream variables in rifle, run and pool habitats, three land use variables along urban, agricultural and forested stream segments, as well as the fish communities associated with the nine in-stream habitat and land use combinations. Cluster analysis yielded cluster grouping patterns and determined which habitat variables and fishes influenced clustering of land uses and in-stream habitats. Creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), river chub (Nocomis micropogon), striped shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus), and white sucker (Catostomus commersonii) had statistically significant associations with land use or habitat variables. Additionally, the point-quarter method was used to compare riparian plant community composition at three agricultural and three forested land use sites. I characterized water quality, soil organic content and riparian zone plant cover. Forested sites had greater riparian species evenness and richness, as well as significantly lower amounts of nitrate in steam water, relative to agricultural sites. The determination of habitat requirements is important for species preservation. Finding significant fish species associations with land use and stream habitat variables demonstrates habitat preference.

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