Environmental disturbance and the distribution of Rhinichthys bowersi in West Virginia

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Schlenker, Brooke Elizabeth
fish hybridization; environmental disturbance; geospatial analysis; transportation; Environmental Monitoring; Environmental Sciences; Fresh Water Studies; Other Environmental Sciences; Physical Sciences and Mathematics; Water Resource Management
thesis / dissertation description
The Cheat minnow, Rhinichthys bowersi, has been designated a species of concern by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. Mitochondrial DNA analysis (Gladwell 2002) supports the origin of R. bowersi from hybridization between cyprinids R. cataractae and Nocomis micropogon. Previous investigators have hypothesized a relationship between fish hybridization and environmental disturbance. The habitat of R. bowersi has experienced severe environmental degradation from mineral and timber extraction. In this study, environmental quality was compared between stream systems in which parental species of R. bowersi were found with and without resulting hybridization. Environmental quality indicators included biotic diversity and stream structure indices. Data from this analysis were expressed in a geospatial model and analyzed for significant differences. Results do not support the hypothesis that relates hybridization frequency of R. bowersi to environmental disturbance. An intermediate level of disturbance resulting in increased biodiversity is found in watersheds yielding the Cheat minnow.