Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Taylor, Christopher M.

Committee Member

Linder, Eric T.

Committee Member

Diehl, Walter J., III

Committee Member

Dibble, Eric D.

Committee Member

Jones, W. Daryl

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Biological Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Biological Sciences


In intermittent streams, hydrological variation is probably the single-most important factor affecting fish assemblage structure. While the response of aquatic assemblages to seasonal or annual variation in hydrology is well-known, less attention has been devoted to how assemblages respond to natural, intraseasonal drought. To explore this question, I conducted summer surveys of fish and aquatic insect assemblages occupying pool refugia in first to third order, intermittent streams in the Saline river drainage in the Ouachita highlands (central Arkansas, U.S.A.)(2001?2003). The goals of this project were: 1) to relate assemblage variability of fishes and aquatic insects to environmental gradients during summer drying of streams; 2) to characterize the variability of fish assemblages occupying pool refugia, which differed in quality along a spatial gradient; and, 3) to determine the population genetic structure of five fish species across the intermittent landscape. Hydrological variables explained significant variation in assemblage variability for fishes. In contrast, variability in aquatic insect assemblages was related to water quality variables. These patterns are similar to those observed at larger scales of space and time. As pools dried, neither fish species richness nor the slope of the species-area relationship changed. However, the structure of many assemblages was variable over time. Pools with a relatively stable hydrology were sources of reproduction and high population growth, low extinction and high immigration. Sites that exhibited a more variable hydrology (drying completely or nearly-so) were sinks characterized by population declines. The majority of sites had minimal population growth, and intermediate immigration and extinction rates, and were dubbed metapopulations. Immigration and extinction dynamics had important effects on population genetics for common fish species. Two common species had relatively high immigration rates and showed no population differentiation. Populations of three species showed differentiation that was not related to geographic distance among sites. Instead, local extinction of rare haplotypes and evidence of recent bottlenecks suggested that ecological attributes associated with summer drought affected population differentiation. It is clear that retaining the natural hydrology of stream systems contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity, and the conservation of complex demographic processes and genetic patterns.