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Riverscape nesting dynamics of Neosho Smallmouth Bass: To cluster or not to cluster?

February 21, 2021


Hierarchical stream habitat conditions influence patterns of fish abundance and population dynamics. The spawning period is important for stream fishes but coincides with unpredictable environmental conditions and stressors. Thus, identifying habitats that confer suitable spawning is crucial to managing vulnerable fish populations, including narrow-range endemics. Here, we evaluate reach- and catchment-scale habitat features related to Neosho Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu velox) nest presence, abundance and aggregations (clusters) and quantify nest microhabitat.


Ozark Highlands ecoregion, USA.


We conducted snorkel and habitat surveys from 2016 to 2018 to quantify nest abundance, describe nest cluster characteristics and quantify nest microhabitat. We used field-collected and geospatial variables and developed generalized mixed models to evaluate the influence of multi-scale habitat features on nest cluster presence and nest abundance.


Nest clusters, scarcely known for other Smallmouth Bass populations, contained 25% of all documented nests. Presence of nests was more likely in warmer stream reaches with wide, shallow channels and more pool habitat. Nest cluster presence was more likely with greater nest densities and earlier in the spawning season. The abundance of Smallmouth Bass nests was related to several reach-scale habitat conditions, with greater nest counts in warmer reaches and reaches with deeper pool habitat. Regardless of cluster behaviour, nesting Smallmouth Bass used similar microhabitats, including a range of depths (0.26–1.85 m), low velocities (<0.1 m/s) and typically gravel substrates.

Main conclusions

Our results indicate plasticity in nesting ecology within Neosho Smallmouth Bass populations and highlight the need to consider multiple aspects of stream habitat when developing conservation and management plans. The importance of reach-scale habitat features suggests it may be important to limit landscape and channel alterations. Nest clustering behaviour suggests these populations may be vulnerable to human influence during the nesting season, but also provides management opportunities for protection during critical time periods.

Publication Year 2021
Title Riverscape nesting dynamics of Neosho Smallmouth Bass: To cluster or not to cluster?
DOI 10.1111/ddi.13250
Authors Andrew D. Miller, Shannon K. Brewer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Diversity and Distributions
Index ID 70229171
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta