Flow–recruitment relationships for Shoal Chub and implications for managing environmental flows

North American Journal of Fisheries Management
By: , and 




Regulation of river flow regimes by dams and diversions impacts aquatic biota and ecosystems globally. However, our understanding of the ecological consequences of flow alteration and ecological benefits of flow restoration lags behind our ability to manipulate flows, and there is a need for broader development of flow–ecology relationships. Approaches for establishing flow–ecology relationships have recently shifted away from state-based methods that analyze snapshots of ecological conditions and towards rate-based methods focused on mechanisms that link hydrology with dynamics of important ecological components and processes.


We used a rate-based approach to validate environmental flow standards developed for the lower Brazos River, Texas, by analyzing the relationship between flow regime components and recruitment strength of imperiled Shoal Chub Macrhybopsis hyostoma, a fluvial specialist and pelagic-broadcast-spawning fish. We collected 254 age-0 Shoal Chub (9–40 mm total length), extracted their otoliths to estimate age in days, and used a generalized additive model to regress the number of captured recruits that hatched on a calendar date against flow regime metrics, such as pulse magnitude, flow rate of change, and pulse timing in relation to environmental flow standards proposed by a science advisory committee (Brazos Basin and Bay Area Expert Science Team).


The model revealed that flow magnitude, rate of change, and timing were all significant predictors that collectively explained 60% of variation in the recruitment strength index. Hindcasting for 1919–2020 showed a general reduction in recruitment strength following commencement of flow regulation in the lower Brazos River and revealed that high recruitment correlated with years in which most or all proposed flow tiers were attained, whereas low recruitment correlated with years when less than half of the targeted tiers were attained.


Our work represents an effective validation method for environmental flow recommendations and reveals specific flow regimes that benefit an imperiled fish species.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Flow–recruitment relationships for Shoal Chub and implications for managing environmental flows
Series title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
DOI 10.1002/nafm.10837
Volume 43
Issue 5
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center
Description 16 p.
First page 1260
Last page 1275
Country United States
State New Mexico, Texas
Other Geospatial Brazos River Basin
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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