Title

Streamflow Regulation and Fish Community Structure

Publication Date

1988

Journal or Book Title

ECOLOGY

Abstract

Many regulated streams are characterized by high variable and unpredictable flow regimes. Since changes in streamflow directly modify physical habitat, streams with such highly variable flows provide highly unstable aquatic habitats. We evaluated the effect of artificial streamflow fluctuations on stream fish communities by comparing fish densities, in species and habitat groups, between two rivers differing in daily flow regime: on with with a natural flow, and one with highly regulated flows. We developed a simple model describing the relationship between available streams habitat and its use by 15 species or size classes of fish in the natural river. Species and size classes that used a specific set of microhabitat conditions were identified by comparing habitat characteristics for samples with and without each type of fish; for fish that used a particular type of microhabitat, we grouped species and size classes according to similarity in microhabitat use. Next, we categorized stream habitat samples in both the natural and regulated rivers into groups on the basis of fish habitat use criteria. Fish densities for each fish and habitat group were ten individually compared between the two rivers. An abundant (>90% of all fish) and diverse (nine species) group of small—fish species and size classes were restricted to microhabitat that was characterized as shallow in depth, slow in current velocity, and concentrated along stream margins. This group of fish was reduced in abundance in the regulated river and absent at the study site with the greatest flow fluctuation. Another fish group included species and size classes that used either a broad range of habitat or a microhabitat that was deep, fast, or both, and was concentrated in midstream areas. The density of fish in this group was higher in the regulated river and peaked at the sites with the greatest fluctuations in flow. Highly variable and unpredictable flow regimes appear to be a high—frequency disturbance that effects fish differently depending on the way they use stream habitat and acts to reduce community complexity.

DOI

10.2307/1940436

Volume

69

Issue

2

Pages

382-392

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