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Macrohabitat associations of fishes in shallow waters of the Detroit River

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Seasonal variation in large-scale habitat selection by fishes in shallow, Canadian waters of the Detroit River was examined. Fish communities were compared among three river segments (upstream, middle and downstream) consisting of areas of shallow water habitat separated by wide hydrologic barriers of deep, flowing water and between inshore and offshore areas. In spring, the most unique, diverse and abundant fish assemblages were found at inshore sites in the middle segment where the largest remaining wetland habitats are located. Fishes used inshore habitat to spawn and probably avoided offshore areas because macrophyte cover was not available in spring. In summer, juvenile gizzard shad Dorosoma cepedianum and white bass Morone chrysops were observed in high densities in the upstream segment, probably migrating downstream from Lake St Clair. There was little difference in the fish assemblage among macrohabitats in autumn. The upstream segment appeared to be the most degraded, because it contained no species that were not found in the other segments, had a paucity of uncommon species and had significantly more non-native species. This state was attributed to the infilling of coastal wetlands by urban land use and a resulting loss of habitat heterogeneity. The middle segment, with the only remaining wetland habitats, had the greatest occurrence of uncommon species and the only species at risk found in this study. Conservation and restoration efforts should be greatest for wetlands; however, shallow offshore areas provide important fish habitat in summer and autumn.

Keywords: connecting channel; fish assemblage; habitat; inshore; ontogeny; season

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada 2: Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Central and Arctic Region, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 867 Lakeshore Road, Bington, Ontario L7R 4A6, Canada

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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