Copyright
David M Stagliano.

Aquatic community classification and ecosystem diversity in Montana's Missouri River watershed (Volume 2005) online

. (page 1 of 12)
Online LibraryDavid M StaglianoAquatic community classification and ecosystem diversity in Montana's Missouri River watershed (Volume 2005) → online text (page 1 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Aquatic Community Classification

and Ecosystem Diversity in

Montana's Missouri River

Watershed



Prepared for:
Bureau of Land Management

By:
David M.Stagliano



Montana Natural Heritage Program

Natural Resource Information System

Montana State Library



September 2005




MONTANA



^ Natural Heritage
Pix^^ram



Aquatic Community Classification

and Ecosystem Diversity in

Montana's Missouri River

Watershed



Prepared for:
Bureau of Land Management

Agreement Number:
ESA 010009 TO #20

By:
David M.Stagliano



j^" MONTANA

;^ Natuial Heritage




^t ^-^ MUSTAFA j'j/'dAA Un-NTAllA

^T^itate If jIV Natural Kesouice

^ Library ^^jjjP Inioraiation System



© 2005 Montana Natural Heritage Program
P.O. Box 201800 • 1515 East Sixth Avenue • Helena, MT 59620-1800 • 406-444-5354



This document should be cited as follows:

Stagliano, David, M. 2005. Aquatic Community Classification and Ecosystem Diversity in Montana's
Missouri River Watershed. Report to the Bureau of Land Management. Montana Natural Heritage
Program, Helena, Montana. 65 pp. plus appendices.



Executive Summary



The aquatic ecosystems of Montana's lower-
elevation and prairie streams have not been well
documented, yet these streams support some of the
most intact native fish and invertebrate
communities in the state. Only recently have there
been efforts to sample and describe the interactions
among the state's eastern aquatic biota, and
relating prairie stream aquatic communities to their
landscapes. However, Montana has lacked a
system for defining and classifying aquatic
communities.

In response to this need, the Montana Natural
Heritage Program began an Aquatic Community
Classification Project in 2003, with support from
the Bureau of Land Management and The Nature
Conservancy, to sample, identify and characterize
stream communities within the Upper Missouri
River Zoogeographic Region of Montana. This
study evaluates the components and patterns of
lotic ecosystems across all ecoregions of the upper
Missouri River basin. We used cluster analysis and
nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMS) to
classify biological communities offish and
macroinvertebrate assemblages and then related
those groups to aquatic ecological units based on
abiotic habitat variables, creating a classification
system that predicts aquatic community
occurrences within watersheds. Indicator species
analysis (ISA) was performed on the community
groups to determine the characteristic taxa of
specific communities. The results of this work
provide a better foundation for understanding and
documenting the diversity of aquatic systems in
Montana's Missouri River watershed.

To create a community database for analysis, over
100,000 data records were compiled from a
number of sources covering over 1150 stream sites,
from the smallest mountain stream to the mainstem
Missouri River. Data coverage was evaluated,
and we spent two field seasons collecting biological
data on macroinvertebrate and fish assemblages in
six watersheds to fill data gaps for particular
stream systems. Geographic data describing key
watershed parameters such as land cover, stream



gradient and underlying geology was assembled in
a Geographic Information System (GIS).

We developed a hierarchical classification
framework defining 38 Aquatic Ecological System
(AES) types, 178 macrohabitat types and identified
the five dominant variables structuring the stream
and river communities within the ecoregions.
Distribution maps based on physical parameters of
stream ecosystem types and macrohabitats in the
watershed were produced for five pilot
watersheds.

Macroinvertebrate communities: Genus/
species level taxonomic data from 289 sites with
444 taxa was analyzed and produced 12 distinct
community groups. These community groups were
related to elevation, geomorphology, stream size,
current velocity and their tolerance to
anthropogenic impacts (e.g. sediment, nutrients).
The most significant delineator was water
temperature followed by stream size. Indicator
species of the aquatic ecosystems were identified
and could be evaluated for use as bioindicators in
state monitoring programs. We also describe
macroinvertebrate community groups from three
unique habitats, large river sandbars, Ashless
springs and prairie stream pools, which contain
unique assemblages with rare or at-risk species.



Fish communities: From 483 total sites with 63
species (43 native), analysis revealed 9 and 7
biological community groups for the Missouri and
the Yellowstone River drainages, respectively, for a
total of 10 distinct species assemblages. Water
temperature and stream- size were the dominant
variables structuring fish communities. Six of the
communities were dominated by warm- water fish;
the other four were dominated either by cool or
coldwater fish species. Fish community
assemblages were related to five major variables:
stream order, elevation, gradient or in- stream
habitat, and non-native species introductions. A
confounding factor in the fish community
classification of Montana's river ecosystems was



IV



the prevalence of stocked game fish, including
walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, brown, brook
and rainbow trout or exotics, such as carp.
Introduced species occurred in most cool-cold
water streams and larger warm water rivers,
especially those associated with reservoirs. Three
of the ten species assemblages (the Northern
Redbelly Dace, Large Mainstem River and the
Headwater Trout Stream) contained 90% of
Montana's species of concern found in the
Missouri drainages.

Aquatic Ecological Systems: Of the 38 aquatic
ecological systems, we've delineated 13 ecosystem
types based on the presence of specific biological
communities overlain on the abiotic template.
These represent, at the broader scale, the diversity
of lotic ecosystems found within Montana's
Missouri drainages. Five of the 13 aquatic
ecosystem types are potentially at risk in the state
and have already or will become areas of
conservation focus.

Overall, we've created a robust, scientifically
defensible classification system for Montana's
streams and rivers, and their associated biological
communities at the Aquatic Ecological System
(AES) scale. We've begun to differentiate fully
intact prairie fish communities from those in
degraded landscapes and are starting to model
observed vs. expected (O/E) values for their use in
bioassessments. The macroinvertebrate groups



have not been as robust in classifying fully intact
communities versus those in impaired ecosystems,
especially for the prairie streams. Although the
macroinvertebrate communities in the mountain and
foothills ecoregions seemed responsive to
impairment gradients, and their indicator species
should be further evaluated as bioindicators. The
report also includes the identification of 10 priority
areas in the basin for aquatic biodiversity. Many of
these high biointegrity sites with intact native
communities were identified within BLM managed
lands, and using the classification system, others
may be located that have the potential to harbor
native species assemblages with sensitive species.

We will continue working with NatureServe^ The
Nature Conservancy, The Bureau of Land
Management, and other partners to:

• Evaluate rarity, distribution and
ranking of community groups and
ecosystems.

• Further evaluate macroinvertebrate
communities and their applicability
to the classification.

• Relate reference site community
types to management practices or
riparian assessment

• Continue to refine biological
classifications to classifications
using abiotic landscape data at a
local watershed level.



^NatureServe is the parent organization to state Heritage programs. It is currently coordinating efforts among various Heritage
programs to develop a national aquatic classification effort.



Acknowledgments

We would like to thank The Montana State Office
of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM),
especially Roxanne Falise and Gayle Sitter, for
ongoing support and the funding for Phase 1 of the
project. The Nature Conservancy's Freshwater
Initiative has also been a substantial source of
support and provided matching funds.

Many people have assisted us with this project to
date including, but not limited to providing data,
scientific discussion and ideas, GIS help, etc. and
we would like to offer our sincerest thanks for their
assistance. These people and their agencies
include:

The Nature Conservancy: Betsy Knightingale (PA
TNC), Amy Pearson and Brian Martin (MT TNC)
BLM: Joe Platz (Miles City FO)



Montana Natural Heritage Program: Sue Crispin,

Greg Kudray, Karen Walker, Marc Jones and

Coburn Currier

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks: Steve Carson and

Cindy Sampson

Montana State University: Bob Bramblett, Dan

Gustafson and Melissa Jones

Montana Department of Environmental Quality:

David Feldman, Mike Suplee and Rosie de Sada

NRIS-Natural Resource Information Systems:

Catherine Love

US Environmental Protection Agency: Tina

Laidlaw and Tom Johnson

US Forest Service: Don Sasse: Custer National

Forest Ashland District

All photos in the report were taken by MTNHP
personnel, unless otherwise noted.



VI



Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Developing an Aquatic Classification 2

Applying the Classification 2

Methods 4

Database Development 4

Classification Framework 4

Field Sampling 9

Biological Data Preparation 10

Statistical Analysis 12

Results 14

Classification of Macroinvertebrate Communities 14

Classification of Fish Communities 17

Aquatic Ecosystem Classification 19

Discussion 49

Aquatic Ecosystem Classification 49

Macroinvertebrate Relationships 50

Fish Community Relationships 53

Applications for Water Quality Assessment 55

Applications for Conservation and Management 57

Conclusions and Recommendations 60

Literature Cited 61

Appendix A. Information on Aquatic Ecological Systems, their occurrences in watersheds,

characteristics, and geologic features
Appendix B. Stream Classification and Ecologically Coded Reaches for the Pilot Watersheds
Appendix C. Significant indicator species (p<0.05) of the macroinvertebrate community groups
Appendix D. Unmodified classification cluster dendrogram of the macroinvertebrate groups
Appendix E. Macroinvertebrate Community Group Descriptions
Appendix F. Fish species recorded from sites within the database
Appendix G. Unmodified output classification cluster dendrogram of the all sites fish database based on

categorical abundance
Appendix H. Significant indicator species (p<0.05) of the fish community groups.
Appendix I. Unmodified output of the fish classification cluster dendrogram from the Missouri River

watershed sites
Appendix J. Unmodified output of the fish classification cluster dendrogram from the Yellowstone River

watershed sites
Appendix K. Fish Community Group Descriptions

Appendix L. Predicted fish communities for Montana's Missouri warm-water drainages
Appendix M. Predicted fish communities for Montana's Yellowstone warm-water drainages
Appendix N. Global/State Rank Definitions

List of Figures

Figure 1. Montana's Northwestern Great Plains and Northwestern Glaciated Plains ecoregions 1

Figure 2. Simplified schematic of the structure of the stream classification database 4

Figure 3. Montana's NRIS defined Sub-basins with an enlargement of the Middle Yellowstone EDU 6

Figure 4. Pilot Watersheds used in the stream code classification 8

vii



List of Figures (continued)

Figure 5. Multi-habitat macroinvertebrate sampling in Cottonwood Creek (C006- Northern

Glaciated stream with a Class-code-211h23) 9

Figure 6. Fish sampling a small D005 prairie stream pool with a 20 ft straight seine 10

Figure 7. Fish sampling the Powder River, an A003 prairie river, with a 30 ft. straight seine 10

Figure 8. Fish & macroinvertebrate sample locations collected within the watersheds of the

study area used in the community classification analysis (some sites with vague location

data were left out) 11

Figure 9. Macroinvertebrate community group locations within the watersheds of the study area 15

Figure 10. NMS macroinvertebrate community ordination with 6 community groups represented.

Circled groups represent cold-water community sites 16

Figure 11. Missouri River in the Wild and Scenic Area 21

Figure 12. Yellowstone River near Miles City, MX 21

Figure 13. Powder River (A003) riffle habitat near Moorehead, MX 23

Figure 14. Powder River (A003) run habitat near Broadus, MX 23

Figure 15. Marias River (A004) riffle habitat near Loma, MX 23

Figure 16. Frenchman Creek (B006) riffle habitat in the ELM badlands 25

Figure 17. Battle Creek (B006) run/pool habitat north of Chinook, MX 25

Figure 18. Little Powder River (B005) run/pool habitat near Broadus, MX 25

Figure 19. Otter Creek (C005) run/pool habitat near Ashland, MX 27

Figure 20. Rotten Grass Creek (C005) moderately degraded Great Plains stream 27

Figure 21. Hanging Woman Creek (C005) (small Great Plains meandering stream with

vegetated pools) 27

Figure 22. Battle Creek riffle/run upstream reach (C006) (Small Northern Glaciated prairie stream) 29

Figure 23 . Cottonwood Creek (C006) severely incised Northern Glaciated prairie stream 29

Figure 24. Whitewater Creek reference condition (C006) (Small Northern Glaciated prairie stream) .... 29

Figure 25. Deer Creek (D005) an intermittent Great Plains stream near Decker, MX 31

Figure 26. Xooley Creek (E005) a reference condition Great Plains intermittent pool near Otter, MX .... 31
Figure 27. Little Sandy Creek (D006) reference condition Northern Glaciated intermittent

prairie stream 33

Figure 28. Murray Coulee (D006) slightly impaired Northern Glaciated intermittent prairie stream 33

Figure 29. Cowen Coulee (E006) impaired Northern Glaciated Ashless pool 33

Figure 30. Cow Creek (S005) reference example within the Custer National Forest 35

Figure 31. Charcoal Spring (S005) a slightly impaired example within the Custer National Forest 35

Figure 32. Armstrong Spring Creek (S002) in the Paradise Valley. Photo by: Yellowstone

Flyfishers, Inc 37

Figure 33. DePuy's Spring Creek (S002) in the Paradise Valley. Photo by: DePuy's Spring

Creek, LLC 37

Figure 34. Big Spring Creek aquatic vegetation (S002) near Lewistown, MX 37

Figure 35. Big Hole River (BOOl) an Intermountain Xransitional River Ecosystem 39

Figure 36. Gallatin River (B 002) an Intermountain Xransitional River Ecosystem 39

Figure 37. Smith River (B003) an Intermountain Xransitional River Ecosystem 39

Figure 38. Musselshell River (B004) a dewatered Intermountain Xransitional River Ecosystem 39

Figure 39. Pry or Creek (DOOl) a foothills transitional stream in the Custer National Forest 42

Figure 40. Sweetgrass Creek (C002) a small foothills transitional river near Big Ximber, MX 42

Figure 41. Bear Creek (COOl) a foothills transitional river with sediment impairment near Belfry, MX .. 42

Figure 42. Xenderfoot Creek (D002) a Small Pristine Mountain Stream in the Belt Mountains 45

Figure 43. Boulder River (D004) a Small Pristine Mountain Stream in the Beartooth Mountains 45

viii



List of Figures (continued)

Figure 44. LaMarche Creek (D004) a Small Pristine Mountain Stream, tributary to the Big Hole 45

Figure 45. E. Fork Pintlar Creek (EOOl) a Ashless Alpine Mountain Stream in the Pintlar Mountains 47

Figure 46. Hellroaring Creek (EOOl) a steep Alpine Mountain Stream in the Beartooth Mountains 47

Figure 47. The Nature Conservancy's Priority Northern Glaciated landscapes (taken from Cooper

et. al. 2001) 59

List of Tables

Table 1 . Aquatic Classification Framework Hierarchy for the Upper Missouri River Aquatic

Zoogeographic Unit 5

Table 2. Lithology classes based on Ecological Subsection Units 7

Table 3. Number of sites, watershed occurrences, indicator taxa richness, tolerance values

(0-least - l-=most tolerant) and common functional feeding groups for each

macroinvertebrate community group 16

Table 4. Fish species group assemblages (SPA) and stream-size affinities for the entire dataset,

for the Missouri (MO SPA) and Yellowstone (YL SPA) drainages 17

Table 5. Aquatic Ecological System types, occurrences in the database an the biological

community groups associated with the defined aquatic ecological communities 19

Table 6. Pryor Creek (C005) fish samples at 6.5 (left) and 13.5 (right) river miles from the

confluence with the Yellowstone River: showing temporal and spatial variability 55

Table 7. Fish data from the Little Missouri River (A003) showing yearly temporal variability

of samples taken 2 years apart during the same month in the same river reach 56

Table 8. Prairie Streams and Rivers within BLM lands that have documented (*) or have the

potential to contain high quality aquatic communities 57

Table 9. Observed vs. Expected fish communities from sites sampled in selected Northern

Glaciated C006 Streams 57



K



Introduction



The aquatic ecosystems of Montana's lower-
elevation and prairie streams have not been well
documented, yet these streams support some of the
most intact native fish and invertebrate
communities in the state. Prairie streams systems
throughout North America have suffered neglect
due to a lack of comprehensive study and
understanding (Dodds et al. 2004, Matthews 1988).
Only recently have there been efforts to sample
and describe the interactions among the state's
eastern aquatic biota, and relating prairie system
aquatic communities to their landscapes. The
streams of eastern Montana, as well as those of
mountainous ecoregions east of the continental
divide, the Middle Rockies and Canadian Rockies
of the eastern Missouri drainages, harbor a wide
variety of aquatic habitats, providing refuge to
hundreds of species of aquatic organisms. Streams
and rivers in these ecoregions are home to over
half of the state's species of mayflies and
caddisflies (D. Gustafson, pers. comm.), and 3/4 of
the native species of fishes occurring in the state
(Holton 2003). Streams and rivers across
Montana, from the mountains to the prairies are
vital natural resources to the state and should be
managed for the benefit of all, for generations to
come.

To increase our understanding of Montana's
aquatic ecosystems and the factors that affect
those systems, the Montana Natural Heritage
Program (MTNHP) recently began a collaborative
aquatic community classification project to sample,
identify, classify and characterize stream biological
communities. Ecosystem classification provides a
way to understand the complexity of ecosystems
and creates distinctions among ecosystem types
based on factors that determine the distribution of
ecological processes and biota. We classified
biological communities (fish and
macroinvertebrates) within the Upper Missouri
River Zoogeographic Region with respect to the
common repeatable habitat units within the
watersheds that they occur. This abiotic/biotic
coupling will allow us to predict community types in
the scope of watersheds and aquatic ecological
units. A large portion of the study region includes
the Northwestern Great Plains, Northwestern



Glaciated Plains ecoregions and the lower elevation
Montana foothills and valleys (Omemik 1995)
(Figure 1).




^ V^



Figure 1. Montana's Northwestern Great Plains and
Northwestern Glaciated Plains ecoregion

Effective conservation of aquatic resources
requires a system for identifying high quality
aquatic systems and communities and
understanding the habitat conditions that support
them. Until now, Montana lacked a system for
defining and classifying these aquatic communities.
Working at the community level of aquatic systems
presents an opportunity to effectively manage the
full range of biodiversity, from vertebrates to
invertebrates. Conservation at the community level
protects a complex suite of interactions not easily
identified and protected through individual species
management.

Emerging resource management issues in eastern
Montana, such as coal bed methane development,
pose new risks and many questions about the
impacts to the aquatic and riparian ecosystems,
emphasizing the importance of a strong knowledge
base to provide scientific answers. The results of
this community work will provide a better
foundation for understanding the diversity of
aquatic stream systems in Montana's Missouri
River watershed and maintaining their biological
and ecological integrity. Identifying less impacted
examples of aquatic community types also provides
references to which more impacted examples can
be compared for assessment and remediation or
restoration.



1



Developing an Aquatic
Classification

As with any ecological classification, terrestrial or
aquatic, there is a hierarchical component to the
methodology (Groves, et al. 2002). This
hierarchical framework will enable aquatic
scientists to utilize the classification at various
spatial scales depending on the level of depth or
breadth of information needed to answer their
questions (i.e., at the landscape level or the local
reach scale).

Rosgen (1996) stream classification protocols are
well established (based on abiotic variables), but
they are not set in this hierarchical framework.
Thus, a Rosgen C3 classified stream means
virtually nothing in the scope of aquatic
communities, since that C3 stream could be found
in the mountainous ecoregions with cold-water
species or in a prairie ecoregion dominated by
warm- water communities. We needed a
framework that addresses not only local reach
scale factors, such as geomorphology, but also the
landscape setting that influence aquatic community
distribution.

Three primary questions must be answered to
establish a working knowledge of the aquatic
communities of Montana: 1) What types of
communities exist? 2) Where are they found? and
3) Which occurrences represent the best, most
viable examples of each community type (Higgins
et al. 1998). In ecological classification, a natural
community is defined as a recurring assemblage of
species that are affected in similar ways by
environmental factors (Whittaker 1962). We
assume that natural biological communities can be
identified from sampling data using qualitative and/
or quantitative analyses (Lyons 1996). Unique
biological community types are defined through
statistical comparison of taxa that occur together.
Community types are characterized either by one
taxon that is associated solely with that type, a
combination of taxa that are particularly frequent or
abundant in one community, and not in others, or
dominant taxa (Higgins et al. 1998).



Instead of using the a priori and a posteriori
classification frameworks separately, the Montana
Natural Heritage Program will use both approaches
systematically, and concurrently. This method will
test and refine abiotically derived stream classes
with analysis of biological community data as we
proceed. The process of developing an "a
posteriori" community classification framework
involves compiling the best available information
and integrating biological assemblages onto an "a
priori" derived watershed template, as described
below (Higgins et al. 2005).

1. Assemble existing statewide datasets on
aquatic systems and correlate them with
the abiotic macrohabitat classification
to evaluate, validate and modify the
framework as necessary.

2. Apply this framework using spatial
analysis tools to differentiate and
delineate preliminary stream ecosystem
types from GIS data layers of
landscape-scale abiotic information.

3. Classify riverine ecosystems into distinct
ecological units at multiple spatial
scales.

4. Document the physical parameters and
biological composition (including
characteristic assemblages or indicator
species and the habitat affinities or
requirements of those species) for each
stream ecosystem type. Develop fine-
scale community types or species
assemblages.

5. Predict and map the distribution of
species assemblages (by stream
segment) throughout the watersheds in
which they occur

Applying the Classification

A statewide aquatic community classification has
many applications. Classification is extremely
useful for determining the expected community of
organisms in a reference condition (relatively
unaltered aquatic habitats). Conservation efforts
benefit from knowledge of rare conmiunity types.



or those that are likely to contain species of
concern or the full compliment of native species.

Identifying reference aquatic communities is critical


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryDavid M StaglianoAquatic community classification and ecosystem diversity in Montana's Missouri River watershed (Volume 2005) → online text (page 1 of 12)