River habitat, fish dispersal and fragmentation

Our most recent article on the effects of habitat suitability, fish dispersal and fragmentation on river fish distribution has been published in Ecological Applications and is available online.

Habitat suitability, dispersal potential, and fragmentation influence the distribution of stream fishes; however, their relative influence and interacting effects on species distributions are poorly understood, which may result in uncertain outcomes of river rehabilitation and conservation. Using empirical data describing 17 relatively common stream f ishes, we combine (1) species habitat suitability models (MaxEnt) with a (2) species dispersal model (FIDIMO) and a (3) worst-case scenario of the influence of river fragmentation on dispersal. Using generalized linear mixed models, we aimed to uncover the role of these factors in explaining the probability of presence. Simulations over nine years allowed for assessing the relative importance of dispersal over time for structuring species occurrences vs. the importance of habitat suitability. Models combining all three structuring factors performed consistently better in predicting the spatial occurrence patterns than models including only single factors. Our results confirmed that distribution patterns of stream fishes are jointly controlled by species dispersal and habitat suitability. An increase of 0.1 habitat suitability probability more than doubled the odds of species occurrence; an increase of 0.1 dispersal probability yielded a 14-fold increase of the odds of species occurrence. Temporal simulations revealed that over short time frames (1–2 years) dispersal from nearby source populations is four times more important than habitat suitability for species presence. However, over longer time periods, the importance of habitat suitability increases relative to the importance of dispersal. Surprisingly, fragmentation by migration barriers did not appear as a significant driver of occurrence patterns. Concluding, these findings demonstrate the importance of the spatial arrangement of suitable habitats and potential source populations, as well as their relative position in relation to barriers. We emphasize considering the direction of connections within river networks and the dispersal abilities of fishes, as well as providing (access to) new, suitable habitat for successful river rehabilitation.

Johannes Radinger and Christian Wolter (2015). Disentangling the effects of habitat suitability, dispersal, and fragmentation on the distribution of river fishes. Ecological Applications 25:914–927. DOI: 10.1890/14-0422.1


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