Historical Changes in Fish Assemblage Composition Following Water Quality Improvement in the Mainstem Trinity River of Texas Academic Article uri icon


  • 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. The Clean Water Act of 1972 is credited with improving water quality across the USA, although few long-term studies tracking hydrologic, chemical, and biological responses to cleanup efforts exist. The Trinity River of Texas was plagued by poor water quality for more than a century before passage of legislation to reduce point source pollution from the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Metroplex. We tracked changes in components of flow regime; concentrations of ammonia, nitrate, phosphorus, and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD); and fish assemblage composition in three mainstem reaches during a 40-year period (1968-2008) following implementation of a large-scale cleanup initiative. Results suggest little change in flow regime components such as magnitude, timing, and rate of change among the three reaches during 1968-2008. Concentrations of water quality parameters declined through time and with greater distance from DFW, including the lowest concentrations in the reach downstream of a mainstem reservoir (Lake Livingston). Fish assemblage composition shifts correlated with attenuated nutrient and BOD concentrations, and species richness generally increased among all reaches. Native and intolerant fishes consistently increased through time among all three reaches, although lentic and non-native species also increased downstream of Lake Livingston. Our findings suggest a revitalization of the Trinity River fish assemblage associated with reduced nutrient pollution in DFW (even among distant reaches) and also illustrate potential confounding factors such as stream impoundment and continued nutrient deposition that likely preclude complete recovery.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 7

author list (cited authors)

  • Perkin, J. S., & Bonner, T. H.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Perkin, JS||Bonner, TH

publication date

  • October 2016