Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Episodic acidification and changes in fish diversity in Pennsylvania headwater streams

January 1, 1997

Current water chemistry and fish communities in 70 Pennsylvania streams were compared with historical records to determine whether fish species richness had declined and, if so, the possible role of acidification. First-, second-, and third-order streams were selected, and stream sites sampled during the 1961-1971 survey were resampled during May and June 1994 in the Appalachian Plateaus province and during June 1995 in the Valley and Ridge province. Stream-flow was measured and a habitat assessment was completed at each site. Dominant bedrock types influencing the stream sampling site were determined for the Appalachian Plateaus streams. Episodic water chemistry was collected for 39 of the 50 Appalachian Plateaus streams and 14 of the 20 Valley and Ridge streams during the winter and spring of 1996. Thirty-eight (76%) streams of the Appalachian Plateaus province and 13 (65%) streams in the Valley and Ridge province had a loss of fish species since the 1961-1971 sampling period. Habitat scores were not related to losses of fish species. Of the 53 streams sampled during runoff episodes 22 (42%) increased in total dissolved aluminum by more than 50 ??g/L, and 31 (58%) streams decreased in pH by 0.5 units or more. Minnows (Cyprinidae) and darters (Percidae) are sensitive to acidity and were the species most often lost. Streams draining watersheds of the Appalachian Plateaus province dominated by Pottsville bedrock had more acidic water quality during base flow and storm flow sampling periods than streams dominated by Pocono bedrock. The results of this study indicate that many Pennsylvania streams have undergone an alarming reduction in fish diversity during the past 25-34 years. In many of these streams the loss in fish diversity may be attributed to episodic acidification.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1997
Title Episodic acidification and changes in fish diversity in Pennsylvania headwater streams
Authors R.M. Heard, W.E. Sharpe, R.F. Carline, William G. Kimmel
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Series Number
Index ID 70019558
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization