Influence of a high-head dam as a dispersal barrier to fish community structure of the Upper Mississippi River

Rebekah L. Anderson, Cory A. Anderson, James H. Larson, Brent Knights, Jon Vallazza, Sean E. Jenkins, James T. Lamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In river systems, high-head dams may increase the distance-decay of fish community similarity by creating nearly impermeable dispersal barriers to certain species from upstream reaches. Substantial evidence suggests that migratory species are impacted by dams, and most previous studies in stream/river networks have focused on small streams and headwaters. Here, we assess whether a high-head dam (Lock and Dam 19; LD 19) on a large river, the Upper Mississippi River (UMR), substantially alters fish community structure relative to variability expected to occur independent of the dam's effect as a fish dispersal barrier. Using fish catch per unit effort data, we modelled the distance-decay function for the UMR fish community and then estimated the similarity that would be expected to occur across LD19 and compared it with measured similarity. Measured similarity in the fish community above and below LD19 was close to the expected value based on the distance-decay function, suggesting LD19 does not create an abrupt transition in the fish community. Although some migratory fish species no longer occur above LD19 (e.g., skipjack herring, Alosa chrysochloris), these species do not occur in high abundance below the dam and so do not drive variation in fish community structure. Instead, much of the variation in species structure is driven by the loss/gain of species across the latitudinal gradient. Lock and Dam 19 does not appear to be a clear transition point in the river's fish community, although it may function as a meaningful barrier for particular species (e.g., invasive species) and warrant future attention from a management perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Lock and Dam 19
  • Upper Mississippi River
  • dispersal barrier
  • fish community structure
  • high-head dam

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of a high-head dam as a dispersal barrier to fish community structure of the Upper Mississippi River'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this