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Title: Lifelong population connectivity between large rivers and their tributaries: A case study of shovelnose sturgeon from the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers

Fishes that depend on large–river habitats have declined in many regions due to human alteration of both mainstems and tributaries. Conserving these species is often complicated by their dependence on long–distance movements to complete their life cycle, but the location of key habitats is difficult to assess across multiple life history stages. Movement of large–river fishes between mainstems and major tributaries is commonly observed, but the role of these exchanges at the population level is uncertain. We used shovelnose sturgeon ( Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) as a case study for assessing the lifelong spatial ecology of large–river fishes. Fin ray microchemistry data indicate that shovelnose sturgeon from the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers represent a unified population that relies on connections among multiple large–river habitats throughout life history. The tributary serves as an important spawning area, but fin ray chemistry data suggest larvae subsequently drift downstream to nursery habitats in the mainstem; an assertion that is supported by extensive field survey data. Our analyses underscore the lifelong importance of connections within river networks for maintaining viable populations of this, and likely other large–river species that have been documented to use tributary habitats. Furthermore, these findings support a metapopulation perspective on species that dependmore » on large–river habitats, many of which are now highly altered and fragmented. For shovelnose sturgeon and species with similar life history, protecting or restoring linkages between mainstem rivers and their tributaries should be a conservation priority.« less
ORCiD logo [1] ; ORCiD logo [2] ;  [3] ;  [2] ;  [3]
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  2. Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, Madison, WI (United States)
  3. Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Ecology of Freshwater Fish
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: Ecology of Freshwater Fish; Journal ID: ISSN 0906-6691
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; connectivity; large-river; mark-recapture; microchemistry; shovelnose sturgeon; stable isotope; tributary
OSTI Identifier: