The emblematic minnows of the North American Great Plains: A synthesis of threats and conservation opportunities

23 Feb 2018

© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Anthropogenic changes to the Great Plains rivers of North America have had a large, negative effect on a reproductive guild of pelagic-broadcast spawning (PBS) cyprinid fishes. The group is phylogenetically diverse, with multiple origins of the PBS mode. However, because of incomplete life-history information, PBS designation often relies only on habitat and egg characteristics. We identified 17 known or candidate PBS fishes and systematically synthesized the literature on their biology and ecology in relation to major threats to persistence. Research output on an individual species was unrelated to conservation status, but positively correlated with breadth of distribution. The PBS species have opportunistic life-history strategies and are typically short-lived (generally 1-3 years) fishes. Many PBS species have truncated ranges showing declines in both distribution and abundance, especially those endemic to the Rio Grande catchment. Fundamental habitat associations are unknown for many species, particularly regarding seasonal shifts and early life stages. Critical thermal tolerances have been quantified for five PBS species and are generally > 35°C. Turbidity and salinity changes are linked to responses at multiple life stages, but information is lacking on interactions between water quality and quantity. Hydrologic alteration appears to be a primary threat to PBS species, through complex interactions with landscape fragmentation, and habitat change. We highlight areas where scientific and management communities are lacking information and underline areas of potential conservation gain.