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Zampella, R. A. and J. F. Bunnell. 1998. Use of reference-site fish assemblages to assess aquatic degradation in Pinelands streams. Ecological Applications 8:645-658. (Summary)

We compared the species composition and species richness of acid-water fish assemblages found at five New Jersey Pinelands (Pine Barrens) reference sites to samples collected from 12 other streams displaying a range of pH and specific conductance values and upstream land-use characteristics. Forest land comprised more than 90% of all land cover within the reference-site drainage basins. Median specific conductance at the reference sites ranged from 27 to 45 µS/cm and median pH ranged from 4.4 to 4.8. The six most degraded sites displayed higher percentages of altered land (30.6 - 63.5%), moderate to high specific conductance values (61 - 124 µS/cm), and high median pH (5.9 - 6.6). Altered land included developed land and farmland. Native fish dominated all sites. Nonnative fish were present only in streams with elevated pH and specific conductance values and a high percentage of altered land in the drainage basin. Only two native species displayed a clear affinity to either the disturbed or undisturbed end of the watershed-disturbance gradient. There was no difference in species richness between reference sites and degraded sites. Species composition based on presence/absence provided as good an estimate of Pinelands watershed disturbance as did species composition based on relative abundance. The study also demonstrated that ordination of presence/absence or relative abundance data using detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) provides a good measure of Pinelands watershed conditions.

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