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Open-File Report 2011–1161

Relative Abundance and Distribution of Fishes within an Established Area of Critical Environmental Concern, of the Amargosa River Canyon and Willow Creek, Inyo and San Bernardino Counties, California

By G. Gary Scoppettone, Mark E. Hereford, Peter H. Rissler, Danielle M. Johnson, and J. Antonio Salgado


The Amargosa River Canyon of San Bernardino and Inyo County, California, has been designated by the Bureau of Land Management as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, due in part to its unique flora and fauna. As a task of the Area of Critical Environmental Concern implementation plan, a survey of native fishes was conducted from June 21 to August 12, 2010. Geographic Information System tools were used to map sampling locations, which were spaced at 50-meter intervals. Global Positioning Systems were used to locate sampling stations, and stations with adequate water for successful trapping were sampled with baited minnow traps. Amargosa River pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis amargosae) and speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus spp.) were widespread throughout Armargosa River Canyon. Throughout the study area 8,558 pupfish were captured at 194 stations; 3,472 speckled dace were captured at 210 stations; 238 red-swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkia) were captured at 83 stations; and 1,095 western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinus) were captured at 110 stations. Pupfish were most abundant in open water habitat with native riparian vegetation, and they were significantly less abundant where the stream was completely covered by cattails or where saltcedar (Tamarix sp.) dominated the riparian corridor. There was no relationship between stream cover and speckled dace distribution. Non-native western mosquitofish and red-swamp crayfish densities were significantly higher in stream reaches dominated by saltcedar. The continued spread of saltcedar threatens to negatively affect pupfish and potentially reduce speckled dace abundance throughout the Amargosa River Canyon. This study can serve as baseline information for observing native fish populations in the future, as related to potential changes to the Amargosa River Canyon ecosystem.

First posted June 28, 2011

For additional information contact:
Director, Western Fisheries Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6505 NE 65th Street
Seattle, Washington 98115

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Suggested citation:

Scoppettone, G.G., Hereford, M.E., Rissler, P.H., Johnson, D.M., and Salgado, J.A., 2011, Relative abundance and distribution of fishes within an established Area of Critical Environmental Concern, of the Amargosa River Canyon and Willow Creek, Inyo and San Bernardino Counties, California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011-1161, 32 p.




Description of Area

Materials and Methods




References Cited

Appendix A. Photograph of an Amargosa River Pupfish, Distribution and Size Range of Crayfish and Mosquito Fish Captured, Sampling Locations, Capture Summary, and Water Quality of Select Locations in the Amargosa River Canyon and Willow Creek in the Summer of 2010

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