Spatiotemporal Assessment of Sickle Darter (Percina williamsi Page and Near, 2007) Distribution in the Upper Tennessee River Basin

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Biological Sciences


The Sickle Darter Percina williamsi (Page and Near, 2007) is a species of fish endemic to the upper Tennessee River basin in eastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, and western North Carolina. Because of its narrow range and presumed decline in occupied sites over the last half century, it is being proposed for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. We analyzed the current distribution of the Sickle Darter and temporal trends in its distribution in relation to temporal trends in environmental and habitat covariates for each of the historically occupied sub-basins (upper Clinch, Emory, upper French Broad, Little, Little Pigeon, Middle Fork Holston, North Fork Holston, Powell, South Fork Holston, and Watauga) with multiple linear regression modelling. A total of 154 Sickle Darters were observed at 15 sites throughout the upper Tennessee River Basin. Sickle Darters were observed in the Little River, Emory River, and Middle Fork Holston River sub-basins. A total of 133 unique historical occurrences were used for the spatiotemporal analyses. Sickle Darters have declined in 8 out of 10 historically occupied sub-basins. Our best model for the whole distribution scale (Mallow's Cp = −0.87; Adjusted R2 =.92) suggests that habitat fragmentation due to damming has had adverse effects on Sickle Darter populations across its distribution. Models were very similar for the sub-basin specific models as well. The results from this study highlight the drivers of decline in Sickle Darter distribution and outline the future research needs for this species that should be used to inform future conservation decisions regarding this species.



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Journal of Applied Ichthyology


At the time of publication, Kyler Hecke was affiliated with The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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