Environmental Conditions Associated with Occurrences of the Threatened Yaqui Catfish in the Yaqui River Basin, Mexico


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The Yaqui Catfish Ictalurus pricei is an understudied species, with limited information available on its ecology, distribution, and local habitat use. Native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, Yaqui Catfish populations are declining, which has prompted listing of the species as threatened in the United States and as a species of concern in Mexico. Water overallocation, habitat degradation, invasive species introductions, and hybridization with nonnative Channel Catfish I. punctatus have caused the populations in Mexico to decline. The United States population collapsed after years of low recruitment. To better focus conservation efforts as well as define habitat associated with Yaqui Catfish occurrences, we assessed the distribution in the Yaqui River basin of Mexico by using historical data at a landscape scale. Yaqui Catfish were historically found across the watershed among a diversity of environments but were most frequently associated with small, intermittent streams. Basin land cover was dominated by forest, shrubland, and grassland, and Yaqui Catfish generally occurred in stream segments at similar proportions. However, a small number of Yaqui Catfish occurrences were associated with urban and cropland land cover types in proportions greater than the availability of those categories on the landscape. With the species facing declines in the region, this work will help to inform future conservation efforts aimed at securing the Yaqui Catfish, protecting suitable habitat, and better defining its current status in Mexico.
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