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A Culvert Acts as a Barrier for Blackside Dace (Chrosomus cumberlandensis) Movements in Lick Fork, Kentucky
David J. Eisenhour and Michael A. Floyd

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 12, Special Issue 4 (2013): 82–91

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D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist 82 Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 A Culvert Acts as a Barrier for Blackside Dace (Chrosomus cumberlandensis) Movements in Lick Fork, Kentucky David J. Eisenhour1,* and Michael A. Floyd2 Abstract - From 2003 to 2012, we surveyed the fishes of Lick Fork, a Blackside Dace (Chrosomus cumberlandensis) stream in Bell County, KY. The downstream half of Lick Fork flows through a subdivision, where it is interrupted by a perched culvert that restricts the movement of fishes within Lick Fork. The fish faunas and abundance of Blackside Dace upstream and downstream of the culvert were strikingly different. Downstream of the culvert, the fish fauna was species-rich (9–13 species), KIBI scores were high (48–56, considered “Good” to “Excellent”), and Blackside Dace were common. In contrast, upstream of the culvert Blackside Dace were rare, only two species—Semotilus atromaculatus (Creek Chub) and Rhinichthys atratulus (Blacknose Dace)—were found in abundance, and KIBI scores were lower (33–48, considered “Fair” to “Good”). Comparison with historical collections (1994) revealed declines or extirpations of some fishes (Chrosomus and Etheostoma) upstream of the culvert. The striking difference in the upstream and downstream faunas and the decline of some fish species, including Blackside Dace, is likely due to upstream extirpations from droughts or other stochastic events, coupled with the inability to recolonize from downstream populations because of the culvert barrier. This conclusion suggests that bridge and culvert design and placement are important considerations in management of Blackside Dace streams, as they can have a significant effect on community composition and fish movement. Introduction Chrosomus cumberlandensis (Blackside Dace) is a small minnow (family Cyprinidae) restricted to headwater streams in the upper Cumberland River drainage in Kentucky and Tennessee. Typically, Blackside Dace occur in streams that are cool, silt-free, and shaded by dense canopy cover. Coal mining, logging, urbanization, and other watershed disturbances have resulted in the decline or extirpation of several populations of Blackside Dace (Eisenhour and Strange 1998). The species has been designated as threatened in Kentucky (KSNPC 2010) and Tennessee (Withers 2009) and has also been federally listed as threatened (USFWS 1987). Although numerous populations of Blackside Dace are known (Black et al. 2013 [this issue], Laudermilk and Cicerello 1998, O’Bara 1990), most populations are small and restricted to short (1–6 km) reaches of headwater streams (Starnes and Starnes 1978). These headwater habitats are particularly affected by natural stochastic events (e.g., drought and floods) and anthropogenic events (e.g., siltation, warming, or acidification following watershed disturbances) that can lead to local population extirpations. Barriers that eliminate connectivity among populations represent a threat because they do not allow recolonization 1Department of Biology and Chemistry, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY 40351, 2US Fish and Wildlife Service, Frankfort, KY 40601 *Corresponding author - Ecology and Conservation of the Threatened Blackside Dace, Chrosomus cumberlandensis 2013 Southeastern Naturalist 12(Special Issue 4):82–91 83 D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 of depopulated areas and can contribute to the isolation of populations. Road crossings of streams (often associated with culverts) are potential barriers to fish migrations and can increase predation, particularly when the downstream end of a culvert is perched above the streambed (Benton et al. 2008, Schaefer et al. 2003, Warren and Pardew 1998, Winston 2002). The fish community of Lick Fork was first surveyed in 1994 by Laudermilk and Cicerello (1998), who documented a total of 15 species, including Blackside Dace and 2 darter species, Etheostoma kennicotti (Stripetail Darter) and Etheostoma sagitta (Cumberland Arrow Darter), a Candidate for Federal listing (USFWS 2012) (Fig. 1). We surveyed the fishes of Lick Fork from 2003–2012 as part of baseline Figure 1. Map of Lick Fork, Bell County, KY. Arrows identify locations, dates, and numbers of individuals of Blackside Dace captured in Lick Fork from 2003–2012. The 1994 records are from Laudermilk and Cicerello (1998). D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist 84 Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 surveys associated with a surface coal-mine permit. Through completion of these surveys, we have been able to document changes in fish diversity and community composition in Lick Fork. This study examines the effect of a perched culvert on fish community composition in Lick Fork, and evaluates the culvert’s effect on the conservation status of Blackside Dace. Field-site Description Lick Fork is a first-order, high-gradient tributary of Yellow Creek Bypass, a modified and constructed extension of Bennetts Fork (Fig. 1). Lick Fork is approximately 4.6 km long and drains an area of 7.8 km2. Channel widths range from 1–4 m, and substrates are composed primarily of boulder and cobble, with lesser amounts of bedrock and gravel. Large woody debris is common throughout the system. The upper half of the Lick Fork watershed is densely forested, with extensive canopy cover (90–100%) and wide riparian zones (Fig. 2A). Although surface coal mining has occurred in the headwaters of Lick Fork, siltation is low, and stream conductivity values are at baseline levels (less than 100 uS/ cm). The downstream 1.8 km of Lick Fork flows through a subdivision (Ambleside) at the northern edge of Middlesboro, in Bell County, KY. Within this reach, riparian vegetation is limited to narrow bands of trees or lawn grasses. Figure 2. Lick Creek, Bell County. A. About 400 m above culvert (stream was dry during severe drought, 4 November 2007); B. About 100 m below culvert, 22 October 201 1; C. Culvert at Windermere Road crossing, 25 October 2008; D. Recently channelized area just above culvert, 22 October 2011. 85 D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 Bottom substrates are finer, with greater amounts of gravel, although cobble and boulder remain as the dominant substrates in most of this reach (Fig. 2B). Within the subdivision, Lick Fork has been relocated, channelized, and is interrupted by two road crossings. The most upstream road crossing (Windermere Road) was constructed in 1988 and is located about 1.6 km upstream of the mouth. This crossing consists of two large pipes (culverts), each about 1.5 m in diameter (Fig. 2C). At the downstream end of the pipes, Lick Fork drops about 0.8 m into a large pool. Within the subdivision, Lick Fork is generally entrenched, with eroded and unstable banks; however, these conditions are less severe immediately downstream of the perched culvert and have not greatly affected the streambed (Fig. 2B). The 200-m reach upstream of the culvert is degraded, consisting mostly of a homogenous gravel-cobble run that lacks pools (Fig. 2D). This condition was created by the culvert acting as a gradecontrolling structure and reducing the upstream gradient, and subsequently, channelization and gravel removal. During our surveys, Lick Fork had perennial flow from its mouth to a point 300 m upstream of the culvert. Upstream of this point, flow ceased during periods of severe drought (Fall 2006–2008) (Fig. 2A). In 2007, the driest year, some water remained in isolated pools, but the streambed was completely dry upstream of a point 450 m above the culvert. Methods Lick Creek was sampled each autumn from 2003–2012. Surveys were completed upstream of the culvert during all sampling years, and were completed downstream of the culvert in 2003 and from 2008–2012. We sampled a 300-m reach downstream of the culvert (36.63909°N, 83.73691°W at the downstream end) and a 1700-m reach upstream of the culvert (36.65276°N, 83.74770°W at the upstream end) (Fig. 1). In general, collection methods and data analyses followed Kentucky Division of Water guidelines (Compton et al. 2003; KDOW 2008, 2010). Fishes were sampled with a backpack electrofisher (Smith-Root LR-24), moving in an upstream direction. For the years when effort was quantified, total shocking seconds ranged from 1533 to 9760 (mean = 6003). Fewer shocking seconds were recorded in drought years, when long stretches of upper Lick Fork were dry. Stunned fishes were captured, retained live in buckets, identified, counted, and released. Fish community health was evaluated using the Kentucky Index of Integrity (KIBI; Compton et al. 2003). Scientific and common names follow Nelson et al. (2004), except for cases where elevation of subspecies is not based on published systematic studies (i.e., we use Rhinichthys atratulus [Blacknose Dace]). Results The fish communities of Lick Fork upstream and downstream of the culvert were strikingly different. Upstream of the culvert, only two fish species, Semotilus atromaculatus (Creek Chub) and Blacknose Dace, were common D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist 86 Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 (Table 1). The two remaining species observed upstream of the culvert, Blackside Dace and Stripetail Darter, were common in early samples, but subsequently were captured infrequently. Downstream of the culvert, we observed a total of 16 species (range = 9–13), and Stripetail Darters and Blackside Dace were fairly common throughout the sampling period. Recent (2007–2012) collections upstream of the culvert had relatively low KIBI scores (range = 33–40, mean = 36.5), corresponding to a rank of “Fair”. Earlier collections (2003–2006) from the same area had higher KIBI scores (range = 43–48, mean = 45.3), ranked as “Fair” to “Good”. Lower scores in recent years primarily reflect an increased percentage of Blacknose Dace (considered a “tolerant” and “facultative headwater” species by the KIBI; Compton et al. 2003), and, secondarily, reduced numbers of Blackside Dace and Stripetail Darters. In contrast, KIBI scores from collections downstream of the culvert (range = 48–56, mean = 51.2) ranked the fish community as “Good” or “Excellent”. Upstream of the culvert, Blackside Dace were common in 2003, but only three individuals have been collected since that time—one juvenile in 2004, and one adult each in 2008 and in 2011 (Table 1). Blackside Dace remained common below the culvert, and multiple age classes were present during most years, indicating ongoing, successful reproduction and recruitment. As documented by the 1994 and 2003 collections, the most downstream segment of Lick Fork (near the mouth) had few Blackside Dace and instead was dominated by tolerant and non-native fishes (Table 1). This finding suggests the Blackside Dace population in Lick Fork is generally confined to a 300–1000 m stream segment located just downstream of the culvert. The few individuals of Blackside Dace captured above the culvert may represent a small, remnant population or waifs that have migrated upstream through the culvert. At present, we favor the former explanation because no other species confined to areas downstream of the culvert have been able to colonize the upstream portion, even after recent fl ood events. Discussion The culvert as a barrier The fish community upstream of the culvert has declined, as evidenced by the loss of one Federal Candidate species, Cumberland Arrow Darter, and decline of two other species, Blackside Dace and Stripetail Darter (Table 1). Strikingly different faunas occur upstream and downstream of the culvert. Although the first 200-m section upstream of the culvert has been channelized, Lick Fork had little apparent anthropogenic disturbance upstream of this area (Fig. 2A). Because Blackside Dace were common within this reach in 1994 (Laudermilk and Cicerello 1998) and in 2003, habitat degradation does not appear to be the primary reason for long-term decline of Blackside Dace. Rather, we assert that recent poor KIBI scores and lower abundance of Blackside Dace observed in the upstream reach are likely a result of the road culvert at Windermere Drive acting as a fish passage barrier, preventing recolonization following stochastic extirpation events. It seems probable that populations of Blackside Dace and some other fishes 87 D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 Table 1. Summary of fishes collected in Lick Fork, Bell County , KY 1994–2012. Fish family or species 1994A 2003B 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Upstream of culvert Chrosomus cumberlandensis (Starnes and Starnes) 11 8 1 1 1 Blackside Dace Rhinichthys atratulus (Hermann) Many 95 92 169 164 174 234 147 310 887 316 Blacknose Dace Semotilus atromaculatus (Mitchill) Many 118 346 581 375 164 212 158 730 375 304 Creek Chub Lepomis auritus (L.) 1 Redbreast Sunfish Etheostoma sagitta (Jordan and Swain) 3 Cumberland Arrow Darter Etheostoma kennicotti (Putnam) 6 7 5 6 2 2 1 Stripetail Darter Total individuals - 228 444 757 539 339 449 308 1040 953 620 Total species 5 4 4 2 2 3 3 2 2 4 2 KIBI score - 43 47 48 43 33 40 36 37 40 33 KIBI rating - Fair Good Good Fair Fair Fair Fair Fair Fair Fair Downstream of culvert Campostoma anomalum (Rafinesque) 5 20 36 66 32 185 140 265 Central Stoneroller Chrosomus cumberlandensis 1 5 4 4 12 4 11 Luxilus chrysocephalus Rafinesque 52 2 12 3 60 26 41 Striped Shiner Notropis buccatus (Cope) 2 8 6 6 Silverjaw Minnow Pimephales notatus (Rafinesque) Many 409 2 1 1 9 Bluntnose Minnow Pimephales promelas Rafinesque 2 Fathead Minnow Rhinichthys atratulus 5 1 91 138 65 111 213 289 D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist 88 Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 Table 1, continued. Fish family or species 1994A 2003B 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Semotilus atromaculatus Many 30 42 40 36 103 79 144 Catostomus commersonii (Lacepède) Many 10 1 1 18 7 1 White Sucker Hypentelium nigricans (Lesueur) 3 1 4 3 1 Northern Hog Sucker Ameiurus melas (Rafinesque) 2 Black Bullhead Gambusia affinis (Baird and Girard) 1 Western Mosquitofish Ambloplites rupestris (Rafinesque) 2 Rock Bass Lepomis auritus 2 28 1 2 2 6 7 3 Lepomis cyanellus Rafinesque 1 2 Green Sunfish Lepomis gulosus (Cuvier) 2 1 Warmouth Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque 9 Bluegill Lepomis megalotis (Rafinesque) Many Longear Sunfish Micropterus punctulatus (Rafinesque) 2 Spotted Bass Etheostoma caeruleum Storer 5 2 13 Rainbow Darter Etheostoma kennicotti 1 9 9 19 45 52 30 Total individuals - 561 190 273 161 558 538 906 Total species 15 10 10 9 9 13 10 13 KIBI score - 33 49 48 49 56 54 53 KIBI rating - Fair Good Good Good Excel Good Good ADownstream collection was about 1.5 km below culvert, 36.63000° N, 83.73556°W (Laudermilk and Cicerello 1998). BDownstream collection was about 1 km below culvert, 36.63402°N, 83.73557°W. 89 D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 exhibited metapopulation dynamics (Matthews 1998) in Lick Fork prior to culvert construction. Historically, upstream reaches depopulated during natural stochastic events (e.g., droughts) could have been recolonized from populations in downstream reaches of Lick Fork or neighboring tributaries once favorable flow conditions returned. Detar and Mattingly (2013 [this issue]) documented impressive dispersal abilities of Blackside Dace in other streams—some marked individuals moved up to 4 km, and one individual moved between two tributaries separated by impounded waters of Lake Cumberland. At low flows, the culvert is an impassible barrier because of its “perched” position. During high flows (e.g., June 2011), the culvert is probably impassible because of high water velocities in the pipes. Historically, the stream segment upstream of the culvert likely served as a refugium for Blackside Dace and other fishes during droughts, but it is now the most heavily damaged segment. Three hundred meters of Lick Fork upstream of the culvert have perman ent flow, but a 200-m section of it is highly degraded (due to recent channelization activity) and lacks pools. Thus, habitat degradation likely intensified the effects of droughts and other natural events that caused upstream fish extirpations or population declines. These events often are infrequent, apparently explaining the 15-year span between construction of the Lick Fork culvert and the decline of the upstream Blackside Dace population. Recolonization of streams by fishes is most strongly influenced by the mobility and size of the source population (Albanese et al. 2009). The number of potential colonizers within the Yellow Creek basin has been reduced by water-quality degradation (e.g., impacts from surface coal mining and logging) and physical alterations such as channelization of streams surrounding Middlesboro. The Lick Fork culverts decrease dace mobility to nearly zero, and recent extirpation of Blackside Dace in an adjacent tributary, Stevenson Branch, also reduces the number of potential colonizers. Extirpation in Stevenson Branch (to the west) appears to be due to channelization of the lower reaches, coupled with untreated sewage inputs and sedimentation impacts from logging in the headwaters. Benton et al. (2008), Schaefer et al. (2003), Warren and Pardew (1998), and Winston (2002) documented reduced or no upstream movement of fishes through culverts or local extirpations in small streams. Fishes easily navigated natural barriers such as small waterfalls and high-gradient riffles in these streams. Upstream extirpations have been reported for small-stream fishes following construction of dams and culverts (Winston 2002, Winston et al. 1991). Morita and Yamamoto (2002) found that populations of Salvelinus leucomaensis (Palla) (White-spotted Char) upstream of dams were more prone to extinction if the drainage area inhabited was small, as is true for all Blackside Dace populations. Conservation implications Blackside Dace typically occupy short reaches of headwater streams, making them especially vulnerable to events that reduce or eliminate local populations. Loss of connectivity, either within a Blackside Dace stream or between Blackside Dace streams, increases the risk of local extirpations. We suggest that free D.J. Eisenhour and M.A. Floyd 2013 Southeastern Naturalist 90 Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 passage of Blackside Dace should be incorporated into any design when crossings are placed in Blackside Dace streams. Fish community richness in Mill Branch, a Blackside Dace stream in Knox County, KY, increased following replacment of a perched culvert (Floyd et al. 2013 [this issue]). Replacement of the Windermere Drive culvert with a “fish-friendly” crossing, coupled with habitat restoration just upstream of the bridge, should be considered as a means of producing a more stabile, larger population of Blackside Dace in Lick Fork. Acknowledgments Field assistance was provided by B. Boggs, S. Emeterio, T. Evans, S. Fryman, A. Hunley, B. Huron, E. McCubbins, V. Middleton, C. Richardson, A. Richter, J. Schiering, M. Seebold, R. Umbstead, and R. Wilder. Ed Hartowicz provided background information on Ambleside Subdivision. Field surveys were completed for Appolo Fuels, Inc. while the authors worked for Third Rock Consultants, LLC (2003, M. Floyd) or Technical Water Labs (2004–2012, D. Eisenhour). Permits to collect fishes and work with live vertebrates were provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Southeast Region, Atlanta, GA), the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Frankfort, KY, and Morehead State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Morehead, KY. Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Literature Cited Albanese, B., P.L. Angermeir, and J.P. Peterson. 2009. Does mobility explain variation in colonisation and population recovery among stream fishes? Freshwater Biology 54:1444–1460. Benton, P.D., W.E. Ensign, and B.J. Freeman. 2008. The effect of road crossings on fish movements in small Etowah Basin streams. Southeastern Naturalis t 7:301–310. Black, T.R., J.E. Detar, and H.T. Mattingly. 2013. Population densities of the threatened Blackside Dace, Chrosomus cumberlandensis, in Kentucky and Tennessee. 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