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Fish community changes after minimum flow increase: testing quantitative predictions in the Rhône River at Pierre-Bénite, France

Abstract : 1. Many aspects of the flow regime influence the structure of stream communities, among which the minimum discharge left in rivers has received particular attention. However,instream habitat models predicting the ecological impacts of discharge management often lack biological validation and spatial generality, particularly for large rivers with many fish species. 2. The minimum flow at Pierre-Be´nite, a reach of the Rhone river bypassed by artificial channels, was increased from 10 to 100 m3 s)1 in August 2000 (natural mean discharge 1030 m3 s)1), resulting in a fivefold increase in average velocity at minimum flow. Fish were electrofished in several habitat units on 12 surveys between 1995 and 2004. 3. Principal components analysis revealed a significant change in the relative abundance of fish species. The relative abundance of species preferring fast-flowing and/or deep microhabitats increased from two- to fourfold after minimum flow increase. A change in community structure confirmed independent quantitative predictions of an instream habitat model. This change was significantly linked to minimum flow increase, but not to any other environmental variables describing high flows or temperature at key periods of fish life cycle. The rapidity of the fish response compared with the lifespan of individual species can be explained by a differential response of specific size classes. 4. The fish community at Pierre-Be´nite is in a transitional stage and only continued monitoring will indicate if the observed shift in community structure is perennial. We expect that our case study will be compared with other predictive tests of the impacts of flow restoration in large rivers, in the Rhone catchment and elsewhere.
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N. Lamouroux, J.M. Olivier, H. Capra, M. Zylberblat, A. Chandesris, et al.. Fish community changes after minimum flow increase: testing quantitative predictions in the Rhône River at Pierre-Bénite, France. Freshwater Biology, Wiley, 2006, 51, pp.1730-1743. ⟨10.1111/j.1365-2427.2006.01602.x⟩. ⟨hal-02588147⟩



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