© by the American Fisheries Society 2007
Published in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, Vol. 136, Issue 5 (September 2007) at doi: 10.1577/T06-045.1


Nonnative fishes represent a significant impediment to the recovery of imperiled fishes, including those endemic to the Colorado River in the southwestern United States. Efforts to control nonindigenous fish abundance in the upper Colorado River basin have been unsuccessful owing in part to lack of knowledge regarding nonnative fish recruitment sources. We determined the source habitat (floodplain pond versus riverine habitats) for nonnative centrarchid fishes (largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides, green sunfish Lepomis cyanellus, bluegill L. macrochirus, and black crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus) in the upper Colorado River using stable hydrogen isotopic composition (δD) and strontium:calcium (Sr:Ca) ratios in fish otoliths as natural markers of environmental history. Stable hydrogen isotope analysis revealed that 59% of centrarchids exhibited the otolith core signatures expected for riverine-origin fish, while 22% had emigrated from floodplain ponds and 19% were of uncertain origin. Strontium:calcium ratio data were consistent with the δD assays and indicated that relatively few fish immigrated to the river from high-salinity habitats. Black crappie was the only species that originated primarily from floodplain ponds. Efforts to control the abundance of most of the fishes included in this study should be concentrated in riverine habitats given the hydrologic conditions (below-average river discharge) present during our study. However, the proportion of pond-origin fish increased with fish age, which, coupled with historical river discharge data, suggested that floodplain pond contributions to riverine nonnative fish populations fluctuate with the interannual variations in flow regime and river–pond connectivity. Our results are the first to demonstrate the utility of δD as a natural marker of fish environmental history that will probably provide valuable insights into the management of fish in other environments.



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