Habitat Restoration as a Means of Controlling Non-Native Fish in a Mojave Desert Oasis


Address correspondence to G. G. Scoppettone, email gary_scoppettone@usgs.gov


Non-native fish generally cause native fish decline, and once non-natives are established, control or elimination is usually problematic. Because non-native fish colonization has been greatest in anthropogenically altered habitats, restoring habitat similar to predisturbance conditions may offer a viable means of non-native fish control. In this investigation we identified habitats favoring native over non-native fish in a Mojave Desert oasis (Ash Meadows) and used this information to restore one of its major warm water spring systems (Kings Pool Spring). Prior to restoration, native fishes predominated in warm water (25–32°C) stream and spring-pool habitat, whereas non-natives predominated in cool water (≤23°C) spring-pool and marsh/slack water habitat. Native Amargosa pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis) and Ash Meadows speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus nevadensis) inhabited significantly faster mean water column velocities (MWCV) and greater total depth (TD) than non-native Sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna) and Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) in warm water stream habitat, and Ash Meadows speckled dace inhabited significantly faster water than non-natives in cool water stream habitat. Modification of the outflow of Kings Pool Spring from marsh to warm water stream, with MWCV, TD, and temperature favoring native fish, changed the fish composition from predominantly non-native Sailfin molly and Mosquitofish to predominantly Ash Meadows pupfish. This result supports the hypothesis that restoring spring systems to a semblance of predisturbance conditions would promote recolonization of native fishes and deter non-native fish invasion and proliferation.