Application of a multistate model to estimate culvert effects on movement of small fishes

Publication Date



fish passage, culverts, upstream, models, barriers, water level, streamflow

Journal or Book Title

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society


While it is widely acknowledged that culverted road-stream crossings may impede fish passage, effects of culverts on movement of nongame and small-bodied fishes have not been extensively studied and studies generally have not accounted for spatial variation in capture probabilities. We estimated probabilities for upstream and downstream movement of small (30-120 mm standard length) benthic and water column fishes across stream reaches with and without culverts at four road-stream crossings over a 4-6-week period. Movement and reach-specific capture probabilities were estimated using multistate capture-recapture models. Although none of the culverts were complete barriers to passage, only a bottomless-box culvert appeared to permit unrestricted upstream and downstream movements by benthic fishes based on model estimates of movement probabilities. At two box culverts that were perched above the water surface at base flow, observed movements were limited to water column fishes and to intervals when runoff from storm events raised water levels above the perched level. Only a single fish was observed to move through a partially embedded pipe culvert. Estimates for probabilities of movement over distances equal to at least the length of one culvert were low (e.g., generally ≤0.03, estimated for 1-2-week intervals) and had wide 95% confidence intervals as a consequence of few observed movements to nonadjacent reaches. Estimates of capture probabilities varied among reaches by a factor of 2 to over 10, illustrating the importance of accounting for spatially variable capture rates when estimating movement probabilities with capture-recapture data. Longer-term studies are needed to evaluate temporal variability in stream fish passage at culverts (e.g., in relation to streamflow variability) and to thereby better quantify the degree of population fragmentation caused by road-stream crossings with culverts.







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