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Survey Finds More Arkansas Darters

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Friday, December 20, 2019

ANHC’s Aquatic Ecologist, Dustin Lynch, as well as partners from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), recently led a survey for the state critically imperiled Arkansas Darter (Etheostoma cragini) at the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust’s (NWALT) Wilson Springs Preserve. The survey found 18 of the darters, up from 14 observed last year.

The majority of Arkansas Darters live in southern Kansas and eastern Colorado within the Arkansas River basin, for which the darter gets its common name. The Arkansas Darter wasn’t discovered in Arkansas until 1979. A rare species in the state, it is restricted to a handful of springs in the northwest corner. Like many species in this region of the state, it is threatened by rapid urban development.

Arkansas Darters have specific habitat requirements, needing small, open-canopy, low-gradient headwater springs and spring-runs with fine silty substrate and aquatic vegetation such as watercress. These habitats were historically associated with tall-grass prairie and savanna ecosystems that are scarce in Arkansas today.

The NWALT Wilson Springs Preserve is a 121-acre prairie wetland nestled in the heart of Fayetteville. Historically maintained by large herbivores such as elk and bison, as well as periodic fire, much of the land was converted by agriculture and urbanization. The NWALT took ownership of the property in 2011, began restoration in 2012, and opened the area to the public in September 2019. 

Photos above are of Arkansas darters (Etheostoma cragini) by Dustin Lynch.

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