Effects of Natural Gas Development On Populations of Redfin Darters (Etheostoma whipplei) in the Fayetteville Shale, AR

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: 11:20 AM
Hoffman (The Marriott Little Rock)
Jessie J. Green , Department of Biology, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR
Ginny Adams , Department of Biology, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR
Rapid development of unconventional natural gas extraction can impact surface waters through reduced streamflow from water extraction, contamination from chemicals or wastewater from fracking processes, and increased sediment runoff from deforestation, construction of roads/pipelines, and heavy use of unpaved roads. Environmental perturbations are well known to cause phenotypic plasticity in life history characteristics of fishes, including: alterations in size at maturity, sex ratio, reproductive investment, and reproductive success (trade-offs between number and size of offspring). Redfin darters (Etheostoma whipplei) were collected from 12 sites during the peak spawning season (March-May) 2012. Life history characteristics were examined to determine mechanisms of negative correlations between year class one E. whipplei and increasing gas well density. March 2012 samples showed increased reproductive efforts (gonadosomatic index) in both males and females from sites with high gas well density (F2,99=22.67, P <0.0001; F3,82=4.49, P=0.0141; respectively) compared to control sites. Redfin darter populations impacted by gas well activity were skewed towards mature (>30.40mm) individuals and had the smallest mature individuals. Preliminary results suggest life history tradeoffs may exist for populations with gas well activity.  These data may provide insight into the established reduction in year class one Redfin Darters.