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Have fish assemblages recovered from the legacy of acid rain?

By Christine May1, Patrick Harmon1

James Madison University

This module provides a framework for upper-level ecology students to learn about limiting factors for stream fish diversity, using data from Shenandoah National Park and gaining skills in predictive, regression-based modeling.

Listed in Teaching Materials | resource by group DIG into Data FMN (2017)

Version 1.0 - published on 28 May 2018 doi:10.25334/Q4RH8C - cite this

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Christine May - May_Harmon_Qubes_image.jpg

Description

Acid rain has impacted small mountain streams in the Northeastern United States for many decades.  These small streams represent critical habitat for cold-water fish assemblages, whose habitats are being further constricted by climate change.  Predictive models, assuming a 2˚C rise in stream temperatures due to climate change, suggest that cold water species like eastern Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) will face a ‘habitat squeeze’ as pressures from stream acidification overlap with pressures from rising stream temperatures (McDonnell et al. 2015).  Therefore, the viability of mountain streams in providing habitat is critical for preserving diverse native fish assemblages.  Amendments to the Clean Air Act implemented in 1995 have greatly reduced atmospheric emissions of acidic compounds; however, the response of streams and their fish assemblages is not well understood.  In this module, we ask the question ‘what is the current relationship between stream acidification and fish species richness in Shenandoah National Park?’  In addressing this question, students will explore limiting factors on diversity and develop skills in predictive regression-based modeling. The module contains both a guided inquiry and open-ended explorations.

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