Implications of an invasive fish barrier for the long-term recovery of native fish assemblages in a previously degraded northeastern Illinois River system.
Barriers to fish movement have been used to prevent the spread of invasive fishes but may also limit the movements of native fishes. We evaluated the potential consequences of a proposed barrier on the Illinois River Waterway, meant to inhibit the spread of silver and bighead carps, to the continued recovery of native fishes in the Des Plaines River following water quality improvements. We compared changes in upstream cumulative species richness and community structure from 1983 to 2013 in the DuPage River, an adjacent tributary with an impassable dam, to the area upstream of a newly proposed barrier on the Des Plaines River where fish can currently pass through a navigational lock. Fewer species displayed truncated distributions upstream of the passable lock and dam (n=18) compared with the impassable dam (n=23). Due to water quality improvements in the Illinois River as a whole, cumulative species richness downstream of both dams steadily increased over time. Richness also increased upstream of the passable dam but plateaued upstream of the impassable dam. Fifteen to 18 species accounted for differences in community structure between areas downstream and upstream of either dam. Most species (78-100%) were found in greater relative abundance downstream of the impassable dam, and only 53% were found in greater relative abundance downstream of the passable dam. The truncation in species richness and abundance at the impassable dam foreshadows the potential consequences of an indiscriminate barrier on native fishes and the continued recovery of native assemblages.