Fish and Invertebrate Flow-Biology Relationships to Support the Determination of Ecological Flows for North Carolina
A method was developed to characterize fish and invertebrate responses to flow alteration in the state of North Carolina. This method involved using 80th percentile linear quantile regressions to relate six flow metrics to the diversity of riffle-run fish and benthic Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) richness. All twelve flow-biology relationships were found to be significant, with both benthos and fish showing negative responses to ecodeficits and reductions in flow. The responses of benthic richness to reduced flows were consistent and generally greater than that of fish diversity. However, the riffle-run fish guild showed the greatest reductions in diversity in response to summer ecodeficits. The directional consistency and differential seasonal sensitivities of fish and invertebrates to reductions in flow highlight the need to consider seasonality when managing flows. In addition, all relationships were linear, and therefore do not provide clear thresholds to support ecological flow determinations and flow prescriptions to prevent the degradation of fish and invertebrate communities in North Carolina rivers and streams. A method of setting ecological flows based on the magnitude of change in biological condition that is acceptable to society is explored.