Fish movements in urban watersheds

Urban watersheds have a variety of stressors, ranging from pollution (e.g., industrial contaminants and sewage) to major physical restructuring (e.g., hardened channel forms and stream piping) to the most universal: dramatic increases in impervious surface cover in the watershed. These modifications result in what has been described as the “Urban Stream Syndrome” (Walsh et al 2005),  where stream features, like hydrology (higher peak flow, faster rise/fall), channel morphology (widening and reduced complexity), and biology (declines in sensitive fish and invertebrate taxa) show consistent responses among the majority of urban systems.

For a variety of legal, environmental, and land conservation reasons, multiscale management of stormwater runoff is becoming more prevalent in urban planning. Best management practices are often required for new construction and stormwater entities, like Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, often seek to retrofit stormwater infrastructure to mitigate impacts to urban watersheds.  Management of stormwater inflows into urban watersheds may improve biotic use attainment, a major goal of regulatory organizations like the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. However, relatively little data is available on the water quality and biotic effectiveness (and necessary scale) of stormwater retrofit projects (Roy et al 2014).

Our project seeks to monitor changes in the fish community assemblage in a small urban watershed following a stormwater mitigation retrofit and assess whether fish movement changes in response stream hydrology using common, non-game taxa (e.g., Creek Chub Semotilus atromaculatus and Central Stoneroller Campostoma anomalum) that often compose the majority of fish biomass in headwater streams.

Stormsewer outfall of the Bechtold sewershed, Blue Ash, Ohio
Fish sampling in the outlet of Bechtold Sewershed
Creek Chub
PIT tagged Creek Chub Semotilus atromaculatus
Scanning captured fish for PIT tags