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AN EXAMINATION OF RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN CLIMATE AND FISH COMMUNITIES IN AGRICULTURAL HEADWATER STREAMS
Fish communities in agricultural headwater streams are known to be impacted by a variety of factors, including water chemistry, habitat modification, and hydrology. Little research has been conducted on how climate change influences these communities, yet the effects of climate on lake and river fish have been well documented. I hypothesized that fish community metrics would be reduced by the effects of climate change. I examined the effects of climate and hydrology metrics on fish communities at nine sites in the Saint Joseph River, Indiana and Michigan and at 18 sites in the Upper Big Walnut Creek, Ohio watersheds, from 2006 to 2019. Air temperature, water temperature, precipitation, water discharge, width, velocity, and depth metrics were calculated seasonally for each sampling year. Fish were examined seasonally with backpack electrofishing and seine netting and identified to species level. Principal component analyses were used to create axes which represented gradients of climate and hydrology metrics. Linear mixed effect and logistic regression modeling suggested that hydrology is a stronger predictor than climate, but that both influence fish communities. Percent Percidae, percent herbivore, and percent open substrate spawner were positively correlated with precipitation and water temperature. Presence herbivore was negatively correlated with precipitation and positively correlated with water temperature. My data only somewhat supported the hypothesis that climate would reduce fish community metrics. Gradients of hydrology were observed to be stronger predictors than gradients of climate. However, one must acknowledge relationships between climate and hydrology and the potential for climate to have indirect effects on fish communities through influences on hydrology. This study increases understanding of how fish communities in agriculturally dominated headwater streams are influenced, and emphasizes the need for further research on how these fishes will be impacted by a changing climate.