Biotic Community

The White River watershed contains one of the most diverse assemblages of fish species in the state of Missouri or Arkansas. There have been 163 native fish species identified in the entire White River basin and 110 fish species identified in the White River watershed (Shirley 1992). There have been 86 fish species identified in the Missouri portion of the watershed and 97 species of fish identified in the Arkansas portion (Table Bc01). The Missouri portion of the watershed lies entirely in the Ozark-White Division, a division of the larger Ozark Aquatic Faunal region. There are 56 species or subspecies of fish which have a localized distribution in the watershed or a limited distribution elsewhere in the state. The species or subspecies which are restricted to the Ozark-White Division include: Ozark bass, duskystripe shiner, White River or Arkansas saddled darter, and yoke darter. Each of these species has been collected previously in the watershed. Four races or subspecies in the watershed are found elsewhere in the state, but have a morphological distinction in the White River region which make them unique to the Ozark-White Division; they may represent geographic races or undescribed subspecies. These species are longear sunfish, rainbow darter, fantail darter, and orangethroat darter (Pflieger 1989). The watershed also contains a diverse and somewhat unique array of mussels (38 known species) and crayfish (8 known species in Missouri).

FISH COMMUNITY DATA

Fish collections have been made throughout the Missouri portion of the watershed since 1940 (Table BC02, Figure BC01). There have been 81 fish species collected since that time. In 1997, twenty-one fish collections were made by MDC's Southwest Region Fisheries staff; seventeen from William Pflieger's historic collection sites and four from previously unsampled locations. In 1998 additional effort was added at eleven of these locations, and four more historic sites were sampled. Evaluations of fish populations were done on twenty-one of the sites that had not been sampled for at least ten years or that had not been sampled previously. There were 6,788 fish collected or otherwise identified from these combined efforts, consisting of forty-seven species, representing ten families. Table BC03 lists fish species by stream for the Missouri portion of the watershed.

The families represented by recent samples in descending order of number of species were: Cyprinidae (16 species), Percidae and Centrarchidae (8 species each), Catostomidae and Ictaluridae (4 species each), Fundulidae and Cottidae (2 species each), and Atherinidae, Salmonidae, and Poeciliidae (1 species each).

Duskystripe shiners and stoneroller species (stoneroller species included central and largescale stonerollers) were the most widespread species sampled overall, found at all twenty-one sites. Several other species occurred at over one-half of the sample sites including: rainbow darters (20 sites) orangethroat darters (17 sites), northern studfish (17 sites), northern hogsuckers (16 sites), Ozark minnows (15 sites), and blackspotted topminnows and longear sunfish (14 sites each).

Duskystripe shiners were the most numerous species sampled making up 23% of the total watershed sample for the current season, followed by stoneroller species (16.7%) and Ozark minnows (12.2%) These three fishes made up 52% percent of all fish sampled for the 1997-98 season.

Species occurring rarely throughout the current watershed samples, those sampled at two or less sites, included: yellow bullhead, White River saddled darter, checkered madtom, brook silverside, creek chubsucker, western mosquitofish, Ozark chub, and bigeye shiner (1 site each) and white sucker, rainbow trout, spotted bass, and creek chub (2 sites each).

The most widespread large fishes in descending order were: northern hogsuckers (16 sites), longear sunfish (14 sites), smallmouth bass (11 sites), largemouth bass (10 sites), and Ozark bass and green sunfish (7 sites each). The most widespread nektonic, or midwater species, sampled were duskystripe shiners and stoneroller species (all sites), northern studfish (17 sites), Ozark minnows (15 sites), blackspotted topminnows (14 sites), horneyhead chubs (13 sites), and roseyface and striped shiners (11 sites each). The most widespread benthic, or bottom dwelling, species were: rainbow darters (20 sites), orangethroat darters (17 sites), Ozark madtoms (13 sites), banded sculpins (10 sites), greenside darters (9 sites), and slender madtoms and golden fantail darters (8 sites each).

The number of species per site (Table BC02) varied from thirty species sampled at site 1986 on Beaver Creek to ten species sampled at sites 2506 on Bull Creek and 2183 on Cowskin Creek. The average number of species sampled from the twenty-one sites was 19.3.

Creek chubsuckers had not been collected from the watershed since 1940. They were sampled at one location in Swan Creek. One creek chubsucker was recently collected from Little North Fork White River during 1998. White River saddled darters had not been collected in the watershed since 1968 and were thought to be extirpated or nearly extirpated (Pflieger 1997). One individual was collected from lower Beaver Creek during 1998.

Many of the species originally found in the watershed have not been collected in the watershed since 1946. Four species have not been collected since 1973; grass pickerel, red spotted sunfish, steelcolor shiner, and speckled darter. Species that are known to have experienced declines in the watershed, thought to be as a result of reservoir construction, include: steelcolor shiner, Ozark chub, duskystripe darter, silver chub, bigeye chub, wedgespot shiner, White River saddled darter, Ozark shiner, and longnose darter (Pflieger 1997).

For many of the species missing from recent collections, inadequate sampling or sampling error could be factors in their absence. Large species are difficult to seine and easily avoid seine hauls. Since electrofishing has not been used as a sample technique in the recent collections, this could be the explanation for the absence of the larger fish species. In addition, sites on the White River proper were not sampled due to impounded waters. The larger species would be more likely found in these areas than in the smaller tributaries. However, sampling error alone may not be the only reason for the absence of the highfin carpsucker, since it is listed as a rare species in Missouri.

For the smaller fish, sampling error could be a possibility for their absence. It is more probable, however, that some of the species have been lost from the watershed. For example, the longnose darter is listed as a state endangered species, and it has not been seen in collections from the Missouri portion of the watershed since the mid-1950s. In addition, the eastern slim minnow is a state listed rare species and has not been collected since before 1946. The gilt darter and silver chub, though not state listed species, have also not been collected since before 1946. It is unlikely that sampling error is the reason for the absence of these species in collections. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to the construction of Powersite (1913) and Table Rock (1957) dams could have played a major role in the absence of these smaller species from collections and from the watershed.

The construction of major dams and reservoirs has created a barrier to fish movement in the watershed. As populations become isolated, genetic variability may become reduced and fragmented. Though this process happens over centuries, the mechanisms for the change are in place. This has the potential to not only separate populations physically but also to isolate populations genetically. The result is isolated populations with fewer individuals or genetic drift, where genetic diversity of a new generation becomes different from that of a previous generation. Traits that once were developed from a watershed-wide gene pool, in some instances, have now become isolated from one another. In turn, the genetic variation in the two isolated populations may differ from one another. The possibility now exists for fitness reductions in isolated populations resulting from these isolations as fewer gene types are exchanged and passed on to later generations.

AQUATIC INVERTEBRATES

This watershed contained a very diverse mussel fauna in the past. Historically, there were 38 species of mussels collected (Table Bc04). The majority of these came from the mainstem White River which is now impounded (Gordon 1980; 1982 and Oesch 1996). Since 1920 only 9 species of mussels, 7 live specimens and 2 dead shells, have been sampled in the watershed. These were collected from Bull, Swan, and Beaver creeks (Buchanan 1996). The main factor for these losses, especially the mainstem populations, has been the impoundment of the White River. Species diversity in tributary streams may be limited naturally by stream size, water temperature, and high gradients. Several mussel species have been observed in Table Rock and Bull Shoals lakes by SCUBA divers. These are included in Table BC04.

The Ozark Region supports by far the greatest variety of crayfish found in Missouri. This faunal richness is a result of diverse aquatic habitats, very slow and ancient geological development, and the fact that this region remained undisturbed during glaciation. In addition, the White River watershed has several unique crayfish species (Table Bc05) (Pflieger 1996). Longpincered crayfish are restricted to the White River basin in Missouri and Arkansas. Meek's crayfish are restricted to northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri. In Missouri they have only been collected at three locations in tributaries to Table Rock Lake. Meek's crayfish is considered one of the rarest crayfish in Missouri. The Ozark crayfish is only found in the White and Black river basins in Missouri and Arkansas. William's crayfish has a very localized distribution, only occurring in the White River watershed in Missouri and Arkansas (Pflieger 1996).

A detailed water quality study of Prairie, Cowskin, and Beaver creeks was conducted by Duchrow (1976; 1978) following ongoing pollution problems. The study used aquatic invertebrates as an indicator of pollution entering Prairie Creek from the Ava area. Both qualitative and quantitative studies were done on invertebrate populations, and a species list is presented in (Table Bc06).

Many amphibians and reptiles, as well as birds and mammals, are dependent on aquatic habitats, and some spend portions or all of their life in or near the water. Amphibians and reptiles found in the Missouri watershed counties are listed in (Table Bc07).

SPECIES OF CONSERVATION CONCERN

The White River watershed has a very unique distribution of flora and fauna. There are one-hundred and fifty-two watershed species identified as being of conservation concern (Table Bc08). Six federally endangered species are known to occur in the watershed including: Swainson's warbler, gray bat, and Indiana bat in Missouri and Arkansas; running buffalo clover in Missouri; and Ozark big-eared bat and Florida panther in Arkansas. One federally threatened species, Ozark cavefish, is known from the Arkansas portion of the watershed. There is one federal candidate species, the Tumbling Creek cavesnail, found in the Missouri portion of the watershed.

Fish

  • Checkered madtom is Missouri listed as rare and uncommon (S3). This best describes their presence in the watershed. Only one checkered madtom was collected during recent samples. Checkered madtoms have been present in low numbers in samples from every decade sampled beginning in 1940. Pflieger (1997) indicates that checkered madtoms may be declining in the White River system. (Detailed report)
  • Ozark shiner is Missouri listed as imperiled because of rarity making them vulnerable to extirpation from the state. One Ozark shiner was sampled at a location in Beaver Creek in 1992. They had not been sampled in the watershed previous to that since 1946. Once listed as abundant from the White River drainage, its numbers are thought to have been reduced due to reservoir construction, resulting in habitat loss and range fragmentation (Pflieger 1997). (Detailed report)
  • Longnose darter is currently Missouri listed as critically imperiled because of extreme rarity and especial vulnerability to extirpation from the state (S1). Longnose darters have not been sampled from the Missouri portion of the watershed since the mid-1950s. The area where longnose darters were formerly sampled is now impounded by Table Rock Dam, and this species is thought to be extirpated from the Missouri portion of the watershed. Longnose darters have been collected from the Arkansas portion of the watershed as recently as 1987. Range of the longnose darter has also been negatively impacted by the inundations of Beaver Lake (Robison and Buchanan 1992). (Detailed report)
  • Eastern slim minnow is Missouri listed as imperiled because of rarity making them vulnerable to extirpation from the state (S2). Eastern slim minnows have not been sampled in the Missouri portion of the watershed since 1942 and are thought to have been extirpated in part due to reservoir construction (Pflieger 1997). (Detailed report)
  • Highfin carpsucker is Missouri listed as S2. Highfin carpsuckers are known to exist in Lake Taneycomo but are becoming less common statewide with most occurrence records more than 25 years old (Pflieger 1997). (Detailed report)
  • Ozark cavefish is listed as federally threatened and has not been found in the Missouri portion of the watershed; several populations are known to exist in the James River watershed, a White River tributary. Two populations are known to exist in the Arkansas portion of the watershed in Benton County. One population was found in a private sinkhole in 1991, which has since been filled in; that population's status is unknown. The other population was discovered when workers constructing a pond accidentally broke through the ceiling of a cave. Ozark cavefish were last sampled at that location in 1987 (Osborne, C., AR Natural Heritage Commission, pers. comm.). (Detailed report)
  • Crystal darter is listed in Arkansas as imperiled because of rarity making it vulnerable to extirpation from the state . A single crystal darter was collected from War Eagle Creek in 1964. A voucher specimen is housed at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock (Osborne, C., AR Natural Heritage Commission, pers. comm.). Robison and Buchanan (1992) list the crystal darter's range as below the Fall Line in the White River Basin, and do not recognize this collection on reference maps. (Detailed report)
  • Bluntface shiner is Arkansas listed as historical, and one individual was collected from War Eagle Creek in 1964. The specimen is housed at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock (Osborne, C., AR Natural Heritage Commission, pers. comm.). Robison and Buchanan (1992) do not recognize this collection, stating that bluntface shiners have only been collected at four locations, outside the watershed, and prior to 1960. (Detailed report)
  • American brook lamprey is Arkansas listed as imperiled because of rarity making it vulnerable to extirpation from the state. The American brook lamprey is only known from the White River basin in Arkansas and has been collected in the lower section of the watershed below Bull Shoals Lake (Robison and Buchanan 1992). (Detailed report)

Crayfish

  • Meek's crayfish is Missouri listed as critically imperiled because of extreme rarity and is especially vulnerable to extirpation from the state (S1). Meek's crayfish are only known from southern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas, and have only been collected from a few tributaries to Table Rock Lake in Stone and Taney counties in Missouri. They are one of the rarest known crayfish in Missouri (Pflieger 1996).
  • William's crayfish is Missouri listed as critically imperiled because of extreme rarity, and it is especially vulnerable to extirpation from the state (S1). This crayfish has a very localized distribution in the upper White River watershed, in Missouri and Arkansas. In Missouri it is known from Barry, Christian, Stone, and Taney counties. It is found in close association with Meek's crayfish (Pflieger 1996).

Mollusks

  • Tumbling Creek cavesnail is Missouri listed as critically imperiled because of extreme rarity and it is especially vulnerable to extirpation from the state (S1). It is also a federal candidate species. The snail is only known from a single stream in Tumbling Creek Cave in Taney County, MO (Gordon, Oesch, and Wu 1997).
  • Purple lilliput is Missouri listed as imperiled because of rarity making it vulnerable to extirpation from the state. It is rare in Missouri, only known from the southern part of the state, and may have been extirpated from the James River, a White River tributary, due in part to water pollution (Oesch 1995).

ANGLER SURVEY DATA

MDC has collected angler survey data on Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, and Lake Taneycomo. Summaries from Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo are available in various annual reports from the SW Regional Office in Springfield, and information concerning Bull Shoals Lake is available from the Ozark Regional Office in West Plains.

FISH INTRODUCTIONS

The types and number of fishes that have been introduced into the watershed has varied over time. The most notable stockings have been of salmonid species below the three large dams. The stocking of trout species first began in the Missouri portion of the watershed in 1880 when rainbow trout were released into streams along the Frisco Railroad. The first documented release of non-native fishes into the watershed was during 1903-04, when brook trout and grayling were released into the White River. Trout stocking occurred indiscriminately and sporadically, throughout the watershed, from the early 1900s until 1936. Missouri initiated organized management of a trout program in 1937, shortly after the formation of MDC. Stocking at Roaring River Spring was first recorded in 1929, and daily trout tags were first sold in 1937 (Turner 1979).

  • Trout were first stocked in Lake Taneycomo in 1922, but did not become established until the lake became a coldwater fishery in 1958. In the period from 1958-78, 6,000,000 trout, mostly rainbow trout, were stocked in Lake Taneycomo. Recent rainbow trout stockings have averaraged about 750,000 per year. Brown trout were first introduced to Lake Taneycomo in 1980. Recent brown trout stockings have averaged 10,000 to 15,000 per year.
  • Kokanee salmon were stocked in Lake Taneycomo from 1963 to 1968. Survival and catch rates of kokanee were low, and the stocking was discontinued. Steelhead trout (migratory strains of rainbow trout) were stocked from 1971 to 1974, but stockings were discontinued because of the possibility of disease introductions (Kruse 1996).
  • Paddlefish occur naturally in the lower White River basin and occasionally strayed as far as the Missouri portion of the watershed prior to the construction of Bull Shoals Dam. MDC began stocking paddlefish in Table Rock Lake in 1972. From the initial stocking until 1998, nearly 189,000 fingerling paddlefish were stocked in Table Rock Lake. This is the first known successful development of a paddlefish population from stocked fingerlings (Graham, L., MDC, pers. comm.). Paddlefish migrate annually from Table Rock Lake into tributary streams in an effort to spawn, although no successful spawning has been documented. Many of the fish move up the James River Arm and a popular sport fishery has developed. Paddlefish also congregate annually below Beaver Dam.

Numerous small lakes and ponds, throughout the watershed, have been stocked with a variety of fish including largemouth bass, bluegill, grass carp, crappie, and channel catfish. Several complaints have been received about the escapement of Koi carp from an impoundment on Sugar Camp Creek. Several Koi carp were known to escape when the dam failed in the late 1980s. An investigation of the site in 1994 found the dam to be sound, and Koi carp unable to escape under normal conditions (Hash K., MDC memo, 1995). Goldfish were sampled from Swan Creek, the stream Sugar Camp Creek flows into, in 1995. Escapement of stocked fish from impounded waters undoubtedly occurs, but the extent and effects are undocumented.

AG&FC stocked 2.8 million trout statewide in 1997 and plannned to stock 2.85 million trout in 1998, both record numbers for those years. In the period from 1987 to March 1998 rainbow trout were the most common and numerous fish stocked by AG&FC in the watershed, followed by brown trout, cutthroat trout, channel catfish, and brook trout. Most trout, in the Arkansas portion of the watershed, are stocked below Beaver and Bull Shoals dams. Exotic introductions (non-native to U.S. waters) to Arkansas waters include: brown trout, goldfish, grass carp, and common carp. Transplanted introductions (non-native to Arkansas) include: rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brook trout, lake trout, northern pike, muskellunge, and striped bass.

FISHING REGULATIONS

Statewide fishing regulations apply to most streams in the watershed. Special regulations may apply on certain water bodies. Missouri regulations can be found in the Wildlife Code Book which runs annually from March 1 through the last day of February.

THREATS TO AQUATIC POPULATIONS

  • Urbanization - Expanding human populations are and will continue to be a threat to aquatic communities in the watershed. As more people migrate into the watershed, more land is cleared for development and roads. Forests make way for yards and parking lots, allowing for more rapid runoff and increased sedimentation. Population increases are responsible for larger loads on municipal sewage systems, more onsite septic systems, and related spills and nutrient loading. Water use will also increase with growing populations.
  • Point and nonpoint source pollution - Pollution incidents associated with expanding populations in the watershed have the potential to negatively impact aquatic biota. Since 1985 municipal sewage (11) and chemical (11) spills, combined, have accounted for 68% of the recorded pollution incidents in the Missouri portion of the watershed. The three most recently recorded pollution incidents in the Missouri portion of the watershed have all been caused when municipal sewage reached watershed streams. Two of these were responsible for a total of 5,584 known fish being killed.
  • Livestock - Livestock in the watershed in the form of cattle on pasture and poultry houses have the potential to impact aquatic biota. Manure from both sources has the potential to reach watershed streams in substantial amounts. Manure also has the potential to degrade watershed streams over time. Cattle in streams can also negatively impact aquatic life by destroying riparian vegetation and compacting streambanks, which in turn may increase the amount of erosion and waste that enters streams.
  • Gravel removal - Results from a recent study from the Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Arkansas indicate that instream gravel removal significantly degrades the quality of Ozark stream ecosystems. The study compared sites above, at, and below gravel operations and found that at and downsteam from gravel mines, stream channel form was altered, resulting in an increase in sedimentation rates and turbidity, shallower and larger pools, and fewer riffles. The resultant extensive flats favored large numbers of a few small fish species. The removal of riparian vegetation, large woody debris, and large substrate particles resulted in smaller invertebrates and smaller fish at disturbed and downstream sites. The study found that silt-free substrate is a valuable resource to Ozark stream biota, and alteration of physical habitat appears to have a greater influence on the biotic community than limitations imposed on other resources, such as food (Brown and Lyttle 1992).
  • Reservoir operations - Waters with low dissolved oxygen concentrations are released seasonally from Beaver, Table Rock, and Bull Shoals lakes, impacting downstream fish and invertebrate populations. In addition, artificially low flows and rapidly fluctuating releases from Table Rock Dam affect instream habitats in the upper reaches of Lake Taneycomo. Seasonal inundation of lower reaches of tributary streams also has a negative impact on the total amount of available riverine habitat.
Table Bc01: Fish of the White River watershed

Fish of the White River watershed.

Table Bc02: MDC fish collection summary for the White River watershed by location, date, and method of capture

MDC fish collection summary for the White River watershed by location, date, and method of capture.

Figure Bc01: MDC fish sample sites and active USGS gage stations in the Missouri portion of the White River watershed

MDC fish sample sites and active USGS gage stations in the Missouri portion of the White River watershed.

Table Bc03: Fish species by stream from the Missouri portion of the White River watershed

Fish species by stream from the Missouri portion of the White River watershed.

Table Bc04: Mussels and snails of the White River watershed

Mussels and snails of the White River watershed.

Table Bc05: Crayfish found in the Missouri portion of the White River watershed

Crayfish found in the Missouri portion of the White River watershed.

Table Bc06: Aquatic invertebrates in the Missouri portion of the White River watershed

Aquatic invertebrates in the Missouri portion of the White River watershed.

Table Bc07: Amphibians and reptiles found in the Missouri portion of the White River watershed

Amphibians and reptiles found in the Missouri portion of the White River watershed.

Table Bc08: Species of Conservation Concern

The White River watershed has a very unique distribution of flora and fauna. There are one-hundred and fifty-two watershed species identified as being of conservation concern.