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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5038

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service and Amistad National Recreation Area

Water Quality and the Composition of Fish and Macroinvertebrate Communities in the Devils and Pecos Rivers In and Upstream from the Amistad National Recreation Area, Texas, 2005–7

By J. Bruce Moring

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.69 MB)Abstract

To gain a better understanding of the water quality and status of fish and macroinvertebrate communities, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Park Service and Amistad National Recreation Area, completed a reconnaissance-level survey of the water quality and fish and macroinvertebrate communities in the Devils and Pecos Rivers in and upstream from the Amistad National Recreation Area in southwest Texas during 2005–7. Water-quality conditions during the spring and summer months of 2005 in the Devils and Pecos Rivers were assessed at locations just upstream from the Amistad National Recreation Area, and the composition of fish and macroinvertebrate communities were assessed during 2006 and 2007 in and upstream from the Amistad National Recreation Area and Amistad Reservoir. Water-quality samples were collected at one site on both the Devils and Pecos Rivers. Fish and macroinvertebrates were collected at the water-quality sampling site on each river and at three additional sites on each river. The water-quality constituents of primary concern were total dissolved solids, chloride, sulfate, ammonia plus organic nitrogen, nitrate plus nitrite, orthophosphate, phosphorus, selenium, and selected pesticides. During the spring and summer of 2005, the concentrations of total dissolved solids ranged from 208 to 232 milligrams per liter (mg/L) in samples from the Devils River compared to 1,460 to 2,390 mg/L in samples from the Pecos River. Total dissolved solid concentrations measured in samples collected from the Devils River and Pecos River did not exceed the proposed State of Texas water-quality standard applicable for the segments of each river where samples were collected. During the spring and summer of 2005, chloride concentrations measured in samples collected in 2005 from the Devils River ranged from 11.6 to 12.9 mg/L, compared to chloride concentrations measured in samples collected from the Pecos River, which ranged from 519 to 879 mg/L. Chloride concentrations in samples collected from the Devils River in 2005 were less than the lower quartile (25th percentile) value of 14.0 mg/L reported for chloride concentrations in water-quality samples collected at the same sampling location during 1978–95 by the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the Hydrologic Benchmark Network program. The chloride concentrations measured in samples collected from the Pecos River during the spring and summer of 2005 represented a range of values similar to the interquartile range of 548 to 942 mg/L reported for samples collected during 1974–2007 at the same sampling location by the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the National Stream Quality Accounting Network program. None of the chloride concentrations measured in samples collected from the Devils or Pecos Rivers in 2005 exceeded applicable proposed State of Texas water-quality standards for chloride. Sulfate concentrations ranged from 7.55 to 8.20 mg/L in samples from the Devils River compared to 298 to 503 mg/L in samples from the Pecos River. Concentrations of sulfate did not exceed applicable proposed State of Texas water-quality standards. Ammonia plus organic nitrogen concentrations were reported as nitrogen ranged from 0.12 to 0.14 mg/L of nitrogen in samples collected from the Devils River compared to 0.15 to 0.32 mg/L of nitrogen in samples collected from the Pecos River. Ammonia plus organic nitrogen concentrations measured in samples collected from the Devils River in 2005 were less than the lower quartile (25th percentile) value of 0.23 mg/L of nitrogen for concentrations in water-quality samples collected at the same sampling location during 1978–95 by the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the Hydrologic Benchmark Network program. Ammonia plus nitrogen concentrations measured in samples collected from the Pecos River were similar to the range of historical concentrations measured in samples collected from the same Pecos River sampling location by the U.S. Geological Survey National Stream Quality Accounting Network program. Nitrate plus nitrite concentrations in samples from the Devils River and Pecos Rivers were within the historical range of concentrations for samples collected at the same locations on each river. Total phosphorous and orthophosphate concentrations were less than the laboratory reporting levels in the water samples from the Devils and Pecos Rivers. None of the selenium concentrations measured in samples collected during the spring and summer of 2005 from the Devils or Pecos Rivers exceeded the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards (chronic criterion of 5 μg/L or the acute criterion of 20 μg/L) established by the State for the protection of aquatic life. Concentrations of pesticides in the samples collected from the Devils and Pecos Rivers during March–August 2005 were very low and not present in detectable amounts (all reported concentrations were below laboratory reporting levels).

The total number of fish species collected was the same in the Devils River and Pecos River, but the species found in the two rivers varied slightly. The number of fish species generally increased from the site farthest upstream to the site farthest downstream in the Devils River, and decreased between the site farthest upstream and site farthest downstream in the Pecos River. The redbreast sunfish was the most abundant species collected in the Devils River, and the blacktail shiner was the most abundant species collected in the Pecos River. Comparing the species from each river, the percentage of omnivorous fish species was larger at the more downstream sites closer to Amistad Reservoir, and the percentage of species tolerant of environmental stressors was larger in the Pecos River. The fish community, assessed on the basis of the number of shared species among the sites sampled, was more similar to the fish community at the other sites on the same river than it was to the fish community from any other site in the other river. More macroinvertebrate taxa were collected in the Devils River than in the Pecos River. The largest number of macroinvertebrate taxa were from the site second farthest downstream on the Devils River, and the smallest numbers of macroinvertebrate taxa were from the farthest downstream site on the Pecos River. Mayflies were more common in the Devils River, and caddisflies were less common than mayflies at most sites. Net-spinning caddisflies were more common at the Devils River sites. The combined percent of mayfly, caddisfly, and stonefly taxa was generally larger at the Pecos River sites. Riffle beetles were the most commonly collected beetle taxon among all sites, and water-penny beetles were only collected at the Pecos River sites. A greater number of true midge taxa were collected more than any other taxa at the genus and species taxonomic level. Non-insect macroinvertebrate taxa were more common at the Devils River sites. Corbicula sp. (presumably the introduced Asian clam) was found at sites in both rivers, and amphipods were more abundant in the Devils River. The Margalef species richness index, based on aquatic insect taxa only, was larger at the Devils River sites than at the Pecos River sites. The Hilsenhoff’s biotic index was largest at the site farthest downstream in the Devils River and smallest at the site second farthest downstream in the Pecos River. Overall similarity among sites based on the number of shared macroinvertebrate taxa indicated that each site is more similar to other sites on the same river than to sites on the other river.

First posted April 10, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director, Texas Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
1505 Ferguson Lane
Austin, Texas 78754
http://tx.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Moring, J.B., 2012, Water quality and the composition of fish and macroinvertebrate communities in the Devils and Pecos Rivers in and upstream from the Amistad National Recreation Area, Texas, 2005–7: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5038, 70 p.



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Methods of Investigation

Water Quality in the Devils and Pecos Rivers

Summary

References

Appendix 1


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