Modelling Stream-Fish Functional Traits in Reference Conditions: Regional and Local Environmental Correlates

Oliveira, João M.; Segurado, Pedro; Santos, José M.; Teixeira, Amílcar; Ferreira, Maria T.; Cortes, Rui V.; De Leaniz, Carlos Garcia
September 2012
PLoS ONE;Sep2012, Vol. 7 Issue 9, Special section p1
Academic Journal
Identifying the environmental gradients that control the functional structure of biological assemblages in reference conditions is fundamental to help river management and predict the consequences of anthropogenic stressors. Fish metrics (density of ecological guilds, and species richness) from 117 least disturbed stream reaches in several western Iberia river basins were modelled with generalized linear models in order to investigate the importance of regional- and local-scale abiotic gradients to variation in functional structure of fish assemblages. Functional patterns were primarily associated with regional features, such as catchment elevation and slope, rainfall, and drainage area. Spatial variations of fish guilds were thus associated with broad geographic gradients, showing (1) pronounced latitudinal patterns, affected mainly by climatic factors and topography, or (2) at the basin level, strong upstream-downstream patterns related to stream position in the longitudinal gradient. Maximum native species richness was observed in midsize streams in accordance with the river continuum concept. The findings of our study emphasized the need to use a multi-scale approach in order to fully assess the factors that govern the functional organization of biotic assemblages in 'natural' streams, as well as to improve biomonitoring and restoration of fluvial ecosystems.


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