Water Quality Research Journal of Canada

Vol. 45 (1): 47 - 57 (2010). General issue

Frequency Analysis as a Tool for Assessing Adverse Conditions During a Massive Fish Kill in the St. Lawrence River, Canada

   Valérie Ouellet, Marc Mingelbier, André Saint-Hilaire, Jean Morin

During the summer of 2001, the largest fish kill in the recorded history of the St. Lawrence River occurred. More than 25,000 dead carp were recovered. Preliminary analyses suggested hydroclimatic factors may have triggered the fish kill. Long time series of hydroclimatic variables were available upstream and downstream from the study area. In order to investigate if hydroclimatic conditions were extreme during the summer of 2001, frequency analyses were performed on time series of air and water temperature, water level, and solar radiation. During this period, the daily maximum water temperature was abnormally high (return period of 47 years) relative to other years. Air temperature was also high (return period of 22 years) and water level was very low (return period of 67 years). Results showed that hydroclimatic forcings were acting at two different time scales. First, short-term extremes are more likely to have direct impacts on ecosystems, such as lethal stress caused by oxygen depletion in shallow areas. Long-term extremes have indirect effects, which are more difficult to detect, such as immunosuppression. These results reiterate the importance of water temperature in aquatic habitat, particularly in the present context of global warming and climate change.

St. Lawrence River, fish kill, frequency analysis, physiological stress, water temperature

[view PDF]