Trends in River Discharge and Water Temperature Cue Spawning Movements of Blue Sucker, Cycleptus elongatus, in an Impounded Great Plains River

Brian J. Tornabene, Troy W. Smith, Anne E. Tews, Robert P. Beattie, William M. Gardner, Lisa A. Eby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Riverine fishes are sensitive to human-induced changes to their ecosystems and have experienced substantial declines in the past century. The presence and operation of dams modifies natural flow regimes thereby disrupting cues that signal migration and negatively influencing habitats critical to riverine fishes. Blue Suckers (Cycleptus elongatus) make large annual movements, require large and unfragmented reaches of river, and may be sensitive to modifications of cues that initiate migration. We assessed the influence of individual and abiotic factors on home ranges and movements of 62 transmittered Blue Suckers from 2006-2014 in the Missouri River upstream of Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana. Populations in this area are disjunct from those downstream and are influenced by upstream dam regulation. Blue Suckers used large expanses of river with overall home ranges â88 river kilometers, but these home ranges were about two times smaller than reported elsewhere. Increasing discharge and water temperature were associated with movement rate and movement probability and cued spawning movements of Blue Suckers. Movement rates increased with discharge to peak and decreased thereafter. Surprisingly, movement rate and probability were highest at the lowest water temperatures we observed (â1-5°C) unlike previous studies in other systems when peak movement occurred at ≥10°C. Blue Suckers aggregated and showed interannual fidelity to several locations during spawning. Aggregation and fidelity suggest that optimal spawning areas, which exist in tributaries, may be limited within our study area. Our results support evidence that riverine fishes require natural trends in discharge and water temperature, including occasional flood pulses and connectivity among seasonal habitats. The Upper Missouri River retains pseudo-natural discharge and temperature regimes that elicit responses of Blue Sucker to environmental cues, but other rivers may not. Preserving or restoring these features, and entire riverscapes, would maintain natural environmental cues and habitats required by riverine fishes to complete their life histories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020


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