Division of Fishes Projects
Huron-Erie Lake Plain Ecoregion
|Huron-Erie Lake Plain sites
|Fish Creek, Indiana
The Huron-Erie Lake Plain (HELP) is discontinuous and is distinguished from surrounding ecoregions
based on poor soil drainage. Most of the ecoregion was once covered by forested wetlands known as
the Black Swamp. Many wetlands are still present, but many have been drained and cleared for
agriculture. Diverse cash crops and livestock are dominant land uses. The ecoregion consists of
broad, nearly level lake plains crossed by beach ridges and low moraines. The HELP ecoregion ranges
from 179.6-239.5 m on some of the moraines. Streams within the morainal hills and valleys are
often intermittent becoming perennial when they reach the valley floor. The majority of streams
drain less than 100 square miles. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year and
region and averages from 31—35 inches annually. The ecoregion has few lakes and reservoirs with
those present usually being less than a quarter mile square.
Numerous drainage ditches have been constructed and many streams are extensively channelized
allowing for rapid agricultural drainage in flat, poorly drained areas. More than half of the
streams in the HELP are intermittent. These intermittent streams have a density of about one half
miles per square mile in the typical areas of the ecroegion.
The HELP has a broad range of land uses including farmland, which is used for cash crops and hay
for livestock. Corn, winter wheat, soybeans, and hay are produced. In addition, sugar beets, field
and seed beans, and a variety of canning crops are also grown. Fruit and truck crops are grown in
the coarse-textured soils. Some farmland is maintained in pasture and small woodlots. Livestock
includes swine, dairy cattle, and chickens. About 10% of the area is urbanized.
The extensive, nearly level plains and numerous depressions in morainal areas are responsible for
the poorly drained soils. These areas supported extensive swamp forests. Ochraqualf’s and
Haploquepts formed in lacustrine and glacial drift. Udipsamments and Hapladalfs are found on beach
ridges and well drained sites. The natural climax vegetation of the area includes American elm, red
maple, and black ash.
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|Creek chub Semotilus atromaculatus
Fish Assemblage and Watershed Condition
Huron Erie Lake Plain fish list
- Maumee River Drainage:
A total of 221 sites were sampled mostly from 1990-2000. Three watersheds comprise the
HELP Ecoregion including the Maumee, St. Mary’s and St. Joseph rivers.
A total of 54 species were collected from the Maumee River and were numerically dominated
by cyprinid, catostomid, and centrarchid species. The fish assemblage of the Maumee River
ranges from no fish (IBI score=0; single site) to good-excellent (IBI score=55; single
site). Increasing biological integrity was observed from upstream to downstream; however,
declining conditions were observed in the headwaters of minor tributaries. The condition
distribution approximated a normal curve with a mode classification of poor. The
frequency distribution for IBI condition classes for the Maumee River within each
condition class: good-excellent 4.8% (N=1 site), good 9.5% (N=2), fair-good 4.8% (N=1),
fair 4.8% (N = 1), poor-fair 19.0% (N=4), poor 28.6% (N=6), very poor-poor 9.5% (N=2),
very poor 14.3% (N=3), no fish 4.8% (N=1).
- St. Joseph River Drainage:
The St. Joseph River was sampled at 33 headwater and wadeable sites. The drainage
possessed the most diverse fish assemblage in the HELP with a total of 58 species. The
collections were collected numerically dominated by cyprinids, centrarchids, and
catostomid species. The tributaries of the St. Joseph River, including Fish Creek and
Cedar Creek have extremely diverse fish assemblages. The highest IBI score was seen at
Johnny Appleseed Park during 1991.
The overall condition of the St. Joseph River ranged from a low of very poor (IBI score:
14; 3 sites) to a high of good-excellent (IBI score: 57; single station). The integrity
of the St. Joseph River drainage varied with increasing drainage area and showed a normal
distribution of condition. The following was the percent occurrence of site conditions:
good-excellent 3.0% (N=1), good 6.1% (N=2), fair-good 6.1% (N=2), fair 12.1% (N=4),
fair-poor 18.2% (N=6), poor 39.4% (N=12), poor-very poor 6.1% (N=2), and very poor 9.1%
(N=3). Fish were collected from every site in the St. Joseph River drainage. Exceptional
stream sites in the St. Joseph River drainage include the St. Joseph River at Johnnny
Appleseed Park (IBI =57) and below Cedarville Reservoir (IBI=45), and direct tributaries
such as Fish Creek and Cedar Creek.
- St. Mary’s River Drainage
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A total of 23 sites were sampled in the St. Mary’s River. A total of 47 species were
collected and were numerically dominated by centrarchid, cyprinid, and catostomid species.
Integrity scores for the St. Mary’s River ranged from very poor (IBI score = 12; 6 sites)
to good (IBI score= 49; single site). The biological integrity of the St. Mary’s River
increased with increasing drainage area and was skewed towards lower water quality
resource quality. The following was the percent occurrence of St. mary’s River drainage
sites within condition class: good 4.3% (N=1), good-fair 8.7% (N=2), fair 13.0% (N=3),
fair-poor 13.0% (N=3), poor 21.7% (N=5), poor-very poor 13.0% (N=3), and very poor 26.1%
(N=6). Fish were collected at all sites.