Murray State Theses and Dissertations


The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is designed to restore wetland ecological function and wildlife benefits; however, these projects rarely monitor biological responses. The objectives of our study were to (1) identify environmental factors that were the most important in determining wetland fish community composition, (2) examine the influence of the environment on specific groups of fish (large-river fishes and Kentucky Species of Greatest Conservation Need (KY-SGCN) wetland fishes), and (3) compare fish community composition and diversity in wetlands of different condition (e.g., degraded, restored, and reference). From April 2019 to August 2020, monthly electrofishing surveys were performed in degraded (n=2), restored (n=8), and reference (n=2) wetlands throughout western Kentucky, USA. Over 12,500 individual fish accounting for 53 species were collected. Non-metric multidimensional scaling was used to visualize fish community composition and vector analysis was used to determine which environmental factors most affected fish community composition. Our findings suggest that fish community composition was most affected by environmental factors that were related to the influence of the Mississippi River. Vector analysis identified that large-river fishes displayed a strong positive association with wetlands that were more hydrologically influenced by the Mississippi River, whereas KY-SGCN wetland fishes displayed a strong positive association with wetlands less hydrologically influenced by the Mississippi River. ANOSIM and Hill diversity (Hill-Shannon; q=1) were used to quantify differences in fish community composition and diversity among wetland condition. Furthermore, our results indicate western Kentucky WRP restorations have not created unique community composition but have rapidly fostered levels of fish diversity similar to reference wetlands. Current and future WRP restoration managers may need to consider potential tradeoffs between wetland wildlife communities and wetland function to best promote restoration goals.

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Dissertation Committee Chair

Michael Flinn

Thesis Advisor

Michael Flinn

Committee Chair

Howard Whiteman

Committee Member

Timothy Spier

Committee Member

Danna Baxley

Document Type