Great Basin Naturalist


Population status surveys were performed from 1987 to 1996 for desert dace (Eremichthys acros, a cyprinid endemic to several small thermal springs in Soldier Meadow, Humboldt County, Nevada, where the species occupies 7 spring areas in a single valley. Because spring distributions are patchy and all areas are not linked by surface flow, each area comprises a more-or-less isolated population, although irrigation practices or high runoff may occasionally link several of them. Although limited to thermal springpools and outflows, desert dace were found in temperatures ranging from 37° C near spring sources to 13° C in downstream areas. Between May 1988 and October 1989, most of the discharge from a major spring outflow was diverted from its natural channel into an irrigation ditch. Trap catches in the original channel were reduced after the diversion, and fish densities were lower in the ditch than in the channel. Reduced fish numbers still persist (1996), even though the affected site has been relatively undisturbed since 1989. To improve desert dace habitat and increase populations, irrigation diversion should be discontinued and water returned to the original channel. Continued protection and increased habitat preservation for desert dace are recommended because of their limited distribution, apparently restricted habitat requirements, and the potential for environmental disruption in the area.