Habitat Ecology of the Carolina Madtom, Noturus furiosus, an Imperiled Endemic Stream Fish

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Title: Habitat Ecology of the Carolina Madtom, Noturus furiosus, an Imperiled Endemic Stream Fish
Author: Midway, Stephen Russell
Advisors: D. Derek Aday, Committee Co-Chair
Thomas J. Kwak, Committee Co-Chair
Nick M. Haddad, Committee Member
Kevin Gross, Committee Member
Abstract: The Carolina madtom Noturus furiosus is an imperiled stream catfish (Ictaluridae) endemic to the Tar and Neuse river basins in North Carolina. The species is listed as State Threatened, and whereas the Tar Basin population resembles its historical distribution, the Neuse Basin population has shown recent significant decline. Quantifying habitat use and availability is critical for effective management and subsequent survival of the species. This study combined field and laboratory research to investigate habitat use and suitability, as well as efficacy of an artificial cover unit. To assess habitat suitability, we investigated six reaches (three in each river basin) to (1) quantify Carolina madtom microhabitat use, availability, and suitability, (2) compare suitable microhabitat availability between the two basins, and (3) examine the effectiveness of an instream artificial cover unit. We also conducted laboratory experiments to examine madtoms’ use of the same artificial cover unit relative to three natural cover types. Carolina madtom were located and their habitat use was quantified at four of six survey reaches; the species appeared to be absent at two reaches in the impacted Neuse Basin. Carolina madtom most frequently occupied shallow to moderate depths (0.5 m) of swift moving water over a sand substrate using cobble for cover. Univariate and principal components analyses both showed Carolina madtom use of instream habitat to be selective, or nonrandom. Interbasin comparisons suggested that most suitable microhabitats (particularly water depth and velocities) were more prevalent in the Neuse than in the Tar Basin, which is interesting considering that the Neuse population appears to be the more impacted of the two. Consequently, we suggest that other physical or biotic factors must be responsible for the decline in the Neuse Basin population. Our instream artificial cover units were occupied mainly by Carolina madtom (25% of the time), and rarely by a suite of other stream animals. Comparing areas with the artificial cover units (‘treated areas’) to those without them (‘control areas’), Carolina madtom abundance among all treated areas was statistically higher than the controls, demonstrating that madtoms will use suitable artificial cover when available. Microhabitat characteristics of occupied artificial cover units closely resembled those of natural microhabitat use. Results from the field component of the study provide habitat suitability criteria that can inform management and conservation of the Carolina madtom, and the artificial cover units present a cost-effective conservation and restoration option if increased management is deemed necessary. In the laboratory component of the study, Carolina madtom were placed in an experimental stream tank (44 cm x 88 cm in area and about 45 cm deep) and given 24 hours to make a selection among four cover options, three natural (one each of rock, leaf pack, and mussel shell) and the artificial cover unit. Among 30 experimental trials, Carolina madtom preferred the artificial cover unit, selecting it 63% of the time. Rock was selected 23% and leaf pack 13% of the time. Contrary to previous anecdotal observations, mussel shells were not selected during any trials. Results from the laboratory experiments, coupled with similar findings from instream work, indicate that artificial cover may be a viable option for species conservation and restoration. Given the State Threatened status and limited distribution, our results have implications for conservation and restoration of this native and endemic southeastern catfish. Successful management and conservation of declining Carolina madtom populations is dependent upon preserving Tar Basin habitat, identifying Neuse Basin impacts, and restoring Neuse Basin populations.
Date: 2008-12-09
Degree: MS
Discipline: Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1368

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