The importance of floodplain lakes to tropical river systems is well established, but little is known about the function of these habitats in temperate river systems. We examined fish diversity, abundance, and reproduction within six oxbow lakes of the Kaskaskia River, Illinois, over 5 years and their relationship to 11 abiotic environmental variables. The lakes were hydrologically dynamic within and among years, varying in the time connected with the main stem (0-22 weeks/year) and the frequency of low (<0.3-m) water (0-23 weeks/year). Differences were found both among years and lakes. All measured limnological variables (dissolved oxygen, Secchi disk depth, conductivity, and temperature) varied temporally, but only conductivity and Secchi disk depth varied among lakes. Fish species differed among lakes and between adjacent lotic habitats, and species-specific abundance varied among years, seasons, and lakes. This variation was related to several environmental variables. Diversity was positively related to the distance between the oxbow lake and the river but not to any variables that had interannual variation. Seine catch per unit effort (CPUE) was negatively related to mean water level and Secchi disk depth. Total electrofishing CPUE was not related to any variables; however, that of bluegills Lepomis macrochirus was positively related to maximum depth and that of warmouths L. gulosus was positively related to vegetated area. Across all lakes, evidence of reproduction was found for five species and was negatively related to the mean water level and frequency of low water and positively related to flood periodicity. The oxbow lakes have the potential to contribute to the fish community of the main river by providing spawning and nursery habitat for several fish species as well as helping maintain several less abundant main-stem species. However, when considering management options to maintain or restore these ecosystem functions, interannual variation in environmental variables, particularly those related to flood periodicity, should be considered.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science