Stream fish distributions are commonly linked to environmental disturbances affecting terrestrial landscapes. In Great Plains prairie streams, the independent and interactive effects of watershed impoundments and land cover changes remain poorly understood despite their prevalence and assumed contribution to declining stream fish diversity. We used structural equation models and fish community samples from third‐order streams in the Kansas River and Arkansas River basins of Kansas, USA to test the simultaneous effects of geographic location, terrestrial landscape alteration, watershed impoundments and local habitat on species richness for stream‐associated and impoundment‐associated habitat guilds. Watershed impoundment density increased from west to east in both basins, while per cent altered terrestrial landscape (urbanisation + row‐crop agriculture) averaged ~50% in the west, declined throughout the Flint Hills ecoregion and increased (Kansas River basin ~80%) or decreased (Arkansas River basin ~30%) to the east. Geographic location had the strongest effect on richness for both guilds across basins, supporting known zoogeography patterns. In addition to location, impoundment species richness was positively correlated with local habitat in both basins; whereas stream‐species richness was negatively correlated with landscape alterations (Kansas River basin) or landscape alterations and watershed impoundments (Arkansas River basin). These findings suggest that convergences in the relative proportions of impoundment and stream species (i.e., community structure) in the eastern extent of both basins are related to positive effects of increased habitat opportunities for impoundment species and negative effects caused by landscape alterations (Kansas River basin) or landscape alterations plus watershed impoundments (Arkansas River basin) for stream species.
Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s):
Perkin, Joshuah S. Troia, Matthew J. Shaw, Dustin C.R. Gerken, Joseph E. Gido, Keith B.