Anthropogenic alterations to Iowa’s landscape have greatly altered lotic systems with consequent effects on the biodiversity of freshwater fauna. Ictalurids are a diverse group of fishes and play an important ecological role in aquatic ecosystems. However, little is known about their distribution and status in lotic systems throughout Iowa. The purpose of this study was to describe the distribution of ictalurids in Iowa and examine their relationship with ecological integrity of streams and rivers. Historical data (i.e., 1884–2002) compiled for the Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project (IAGAP) were used to detect declines in the distribution of ictalurids in Iowa streams and rivers at stream segment and watershed scales. Eight variables characterizing ictalurid assemblages were used to evaluate relationships with index of biotic integrity (IBI) ratings. Comparisons of recent and historic data from the IAGAP database indicated that 9 of Iowa’s 10 ictalurid species experienced distribution declines at one or more spatial scales. Analysis of variance indicated that ictalurid assemblages differed among samples with different IBI ratings. Specifically, total ictalurid, sensitive ictalurid, and Noturus spp. richness increased as IBI ratings increased. Results indicate declining ictalurid species distributions and biotic integrity are related, and management strategies aimed to improve habitat and increase biotic integrity will benefit ictalurid species.
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