Predictions of stream landscape theory were tested with common agency fishery data in watersheds heavily fragmented by dams and barriers; large stream fragments support higher species diversity, more abundant populations, and a greater range of fish sizes. Study watersheds discharge to the Hudson River in New York USA, drain rocky and high relief landscapes, and have numerous mill dams and stream barriers. Stream fragments with fish collections ranged from 0.3 km to 119 km in contiguous length. Larger stream fragments had more diverse fish communities but not higher fish densities nor a wider range of fish sizes. However, almost all large stream fragments were supporting reproduction and rearing of the dominant stream species (brown trout Salmo trutta, brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis) while small fragments had no evidence of providing this fish community support. Therefore, consistent with the fundamental basis of stream landscape theory, large stream networks provide support for more species and more secure populations. The study supports the concept that diverse fish communities and secure populations benefit from access to a wide range of stream habitats.
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Vol. 59 • No. 3