Recolonization by warmwater fishes and crayfishes after severe drought in upper coastal plain hill streams
Extreme hydrologic disturbance, such as a supraseasonal drought, can dramatically influence aquatic communities. Documentation of the responses of aquatic communities after such disturbances provides insight into the timing, order, and mechanisms of recolonization. Postdisturbance recolonization of streams depends on many factors, including the region and characteristics of the disturbance relative to the disturbance regime. A supraseasonal drought that ended in the fall of 2000 resulted in the desiccation of numerous small streams or stream segments in northern Mississippi that were normally perennial. We repeatedly sampled fish and crayfish during predrought and postdrought periods in seven stream reaches that dried and five that remained flowing during the drought. From immediately after the drought until early summer of 2001, postdrought fish and crayfish assemblages differed from predrought assemblages in dry sites but not in flowing sites. The initially slow recolonization rates increased considerably during early spring 2001 so that by June 2001 fish catch per unit effort, species composition, and species richness in dry sites no longer differed significantly from predrought values. The fish recolonization process was highly ordered, as indicated by significant patterns of species nestedness over time in dry sites. Crayfish numerical recovery followed a pattern similar to that for fish, and we captured more crayfish in June 2001 than in the predrought period. Patterns in fish and crayfish population size structures over time indicated that repopulation was due to both immigration and reproduction. Recolonization was indicative of high mobility, particularly during spring and early summer. Although the fauna was quite resilient to stream desiccation, the effects on fish species composition and fish and crayfish size structure persisted 1 year after the drought.
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