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Predicting community characteristics from habitat conditions: fluvial fish and hydraulics

Abstract : 1. One current approach to the prediction of community characteristics is to use models of key local-scale processes (e.g., niche dimensions) affecting individuals and to estimate their effects over larger scales. We tested this approach, focusing on how the hydraulic habitat structures fluvial fish communities. We used a recent statistical habitat model to predict fish community characteristics in eleven reaches in the Rhône river basin in France. Predictions were made 'blindly', as most reaches were not used to calibrate the model. The model reflects species preferences for local hydraulics. We made predictions of the fish community from the local hydraulic conditions found in the reaches under low flow conditions. We predicted the overall abundance and the relative abundance (both as indices) of fish species, specific size classes, and species traits (reproductive, trophic, morphological and others). We summarised our predictions of the relative abundance of species as two 'community structure indices' using Principal Component Analysis. Our predictions from low flow hydraulics were compared with long-term observations of fish communities. The relative abundance of species actually observed depended largely on zoogeographic factors within the Rhône basin, which could not be predicted by the model. The model predicted 13 % of the variance in the indices of relative abundance at the species level and 23 % of this variance at the trait level for all zoogeographic regions combined. When focused on reaches within a geographic region, however, the model explained up to 47 % of the same variance. Therefore, geographic regions act as 'filters' on relative abundance of species, but hydraulics do affect fish communities within a given geographical context. For the synthetic 'community structure indices', we obtained good predictions from hydraulics independently of the geographical context (variance explained up to 95 %). These indices were linked to simple key hydraulic characteristics of river reaches (Froude and/or Reynolds number). They enabled interpretations of the links between hydraulics, geomorphology, discharge and community patterns. These links were consistent with existing knowledge of species and their traits. In addition to the above validations, the habitat model partly explained the observed effects of impoundment on fish communities. These results show that stream hydraulics strongly impact fish community structure. Consequently, they confirm that community characteristics can be predicted using models of the local-scale habitat requirements of the species forming the community.
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Submitted on : Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 7:01:55 PM
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  • HAL Id : hal-02578651, version 1
  • IRSTEA : PUB00007441



N. Lamouroux, J.M. Olivier, H. Persat, M. Pouilly, Yves Souchon, et al.. Predicting community characteristics from habitat conditions: fluvial fish and hydraulics. Freshwater Biology, Wiley, 1999, 42 (2), pp.275-299. ⟨hal-02578651⟩



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