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Distribution of Fishes in the Red River of the North Basin on Multivariate Environmental Gradients

Collection and Manipulation of Fish Survey Data


Data acquisition

Published and unpublished fish survey records for all streams in the Red River basin were collected and analyzed during 1993 and 1994. Search techniques included 1) a review of periodicals, theses, and government documents at the North Dakota State University (NDSU) library and other regional institutions through interlibrary loan; 2) personal visits and searches of files at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Section of Fisheries (MDNR FISH) Region 6 Headquarters in Bemidji, Minnesota, under the guidance of Lee Sundmark and Robert Strand; 3) personal visits to the BMNH, UMN, and discussions with James Underhill and Jay Hatch; 4) written communications with Pat Bailey, MPCA; Kevin Cummings, Illinois Natural History Survey; Susan Jewett, SI; Douglas Nelson, UMMZ; Eric Pearson, NDDH; and Randy Kreil, NDGF; and 5) communications by telephone with Luther Aadland, MNDNR ECO; Gene Van Eeckhout, NDGF; and Paul Glander, MNDNR FISH. Unpublished surveys by members of the Department of Zoology, NDSU, were compiled and also incorporated. Methods of fish collection included seines, trap nets, gill nets, and electroshocking devices.

Data storage and manipulation

For 1026 sites sampled in 26 major tributaries and the Red River main stem, the stream, primary investigator, ecoregion classification, coordinates in latitude and longitude, date, and fish species occurrences in binary (presence or absence) format were tabulated in Quattro Pro (Borland, version 5.0). All sampling sites on a stream from its mouth at the Red River to its headwaters were included for the Park, Forest, Turtle, Goose, Elm, Bois de Sioux, Mustinka, Rabbit, Buffalo, Sandhill, Tamarac, and Two Rivers and the Wild Rice Rivers in North Dakota and Minnesota. Sampling sites on the Tongue River were recorded separately from the Pembina River, as were the Rush and Maple Rivers from the Sheyenne River, the Pelican River from the Otter Tail River, the Clearwater River from the Red Lake River, and the Middle River from the Snake River. Records from the Pembina and Roseau Rivers are only from that portion of each drainage within the United States, downstream from the border for the Pembina River and upstream from the border for the Roseau River.

Location information from documents (usually township, range, and section) were used to plot all sampling sites on USGS 1:250,000 scale quadrangle maps. Each site was located in NCH, NGP, NLF, NMW, or RRV ecoregions (Omernik and Gallant 1988) or in an ecoregion transition zone (TRA). The TRA was the glacial Lake Agassiz beach ridge region (Teller and Bleumle 1983), a narrow band of steep gradient which extends north and south in both the western (separating the NGP from the RRV) and eastern (separating the NCH from the RRV) portions of the Red River basin. The TRA reach on each stream extended from the bottom of the lowest beach ridge (elevation of the Lake Agassiz lake bed) to the elevation of the highest beach ridge. Latitude and longitude coordinates (decimal degrees) for each site were obtained using a Summagraphics Microgrid II digitizing pad with a Gateway 486DX personal computer running TOSCA (1993) software.

An array of 1026 rows (sampling sites) by 90 columns (site and species information) was produced in Quattro Pro. Sorting the array by year was used to determine which sites were sampled during each of three periods, 1892-1961, 1962-1977, and 1978-1994. Sorting by investigator was used to determine the streams, number of sites, and years sampled by each. Sorting by each species separately, and then by year, was used to obtain the sites at which each species occurred during each of the three periods; and sorting by each species separately and then by ecoregion was used to determine the percent of sites at which each species occurred in each of five ecoregions and the TRA.

Production of species list

From stream survey records and lake surveys conducted by the MDNR FISH, a comprehensive species list for the Red River basin was produced. Most fishes listed have been found at multiple sites by several investigators. However, the list also contains species known only from historical records if voucher specimens had been deposited and were on record at the BMNH. Not included on the list were incidental records of nonnative fishes (such as goldfish, Carassius auratus) likely introduced from local aquaria and not part of naturally reproducing populations and hybrid fishes, which were mostly centrarchids. Also not included were species which were determined to be recorded in error in the literature. In reported cases where a species had not been found historically in the Red River basin and appeared erroneous, the primary investigator of the faulty report was contacted by telephone to determine if voucher specimens of the species had been collected. Most errors were due to misidentification of fishes in the field.

Common and scientific names of fish species followed those of the American Fisheries Society (Robins et al. 1991). An annotated list of all stream fish species which summarizes when each was first reported from the basin, any restricted distribution patterns, and apparent changes in distribution over time was produced. The annotated list complements distribution maps of each species provided in the appendix.


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