Survival of the threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, differed among marshes in a demonstration 9.9-ha multipurpose constructed treatment wetland designed to improve the quality of secondary-treated municipal wastewater in southern California. At a mean loading rate of 3.3 kg NH4-N ha−1 d−1 (6 kg total N ha−1 d−1), the suitability of the wetland to support a population of sticklebacks was estimated to be low. The development of potentially toxic levels of un-ionized ammonia, particularly during periods when pH increased concomitantly with oxygen generation by phytoplankton biomass > 300 mg chlorophyll α liter−1, and disinfection by-products were associated with lowered survivorship of sentinel fish. Moreover, the high oxygen demand from nitrification of NH4-N created daily periods of low dissolved oxygen concentration (6-16 h at < 2 mg liter−1) in the open water areas of the shallow marshes. Low dissolved oxygen concentration in open water zones of the seven marshes during a part of each day and persistent anaerobic conditions in the emergent vegetation rendered the majority of the wetland's substrate surface unavailable for successful reproduction by sticklebacks. The potential sites for Gasterosteus to replace mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis and G. holbrooki, as a biological control agent against mosquitoes are probably limited to comparatively cool-water habitats with high water quality, such as riverine wetlands.
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