An Assessment of the Anthropogenic Impacts to Fish Communities in Four Peace River Tributaries
   Bill Pouder, FWC-DFFM

Abstract: One of few remaining free-flowing and un-channelized rivers in the state, the Peace River and its tributaries support a wide diversity of aquatic, estuarine, marine, terrestrial, and avian species. However, changes that have taken place during the past 15 years threaten the health of the Peace River. For example, watershed development including extensive phosphate mining has altered natural hydrology. Current and future use of the river to meet growing water-use demands will result in increasing withdrawals. Faced with many significant anthropogenic impacts, the FWC has a responsibility to the resource and stakeholders to evaluate the status of the fish community in these tributaries. The goal of this project is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the fish communities throughout four major tributaries of the Peace River (Horse Creek, Charlie Creek, and Shell and Prairie Creek). To meet this goal, the specific objectives are to 1) compare fish assemblages within four tributaries of the Peace River along a gradient of varying human impacts and 2) compare fish assemblages in these four tributaries to those collected in the main steam of the Peace River. Fish are excellent indicators of ecological conditions and are often used as indicators of aquatic degradation. By comparing the fish assemblages of four tributaries with the main stem of the river, we will learn if the human induced impacts affecting these tributaries are causing a reduction in native fish biodiversity. Faced with threats such as groundwater withdrawal, exotic species, agricultural and urban development and altered water flow, the tributaries of the Peace River are critically in need of a study that will help make and support management decisions. This study could also provide information on fresh water fish species that should be listed in the SWAP, filling a data gap. Intensive electrofishing surveys will be conducted quarterly for a two year period on Charlie, Horse, Prairie, and Shell Creeks by staff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Fresh Water Fisheries Management. The primary focus for this sampling will be to collect comprehensive fish assemblage data in each tributary. Each tributary will be ranked (low, moderate, or highly impacted) based on current land use (i.e., agriculture, mining, and urban development) and water quality for comparison. Fish will be collected using a Smith Root GPP 9.0 electrofisher operated on direct current following guidelines in FWC Standardized Sampling Manual. Sampling events will occur quarterly as water levels allow.

Award Matching Funds Total
$95,508.00 $155,508.00 $251,016.00

Year Funded Starting Date Ending Date
2009 7/1/2010 12/31/2013

Location: Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee Counties