Divergent reaction of fish metrics to human pressures in fish assemblage types in Europe


Clemens Trautwein, Rafaela Schinegger, Stefan Schmutz

Journal or Book Title: Hydrobiologia

Volume/Issue: 718/1

Page Number(s): 207-220

Year Published: 2013


Using a large pan-European dataset, we compared least disturbed sites to sites impacted by human pressures across broad river types to assess which aspects of bio-ecological traits of the fish assemblage are most sensitive to alterations of the river ecosystem. To control for variation across river types and large-scale environmental gradients, we began by clustering the least disturbed sites (n = 716) into four homogenous fish assemblage types (FATs) differing by four fish metrics, i.e., lithophilic, rheophilic, omnivorous, and potamodromous fish. We predicted these FATs (headwater streams, medium gradient rivers, lowland rivers, and Mediterranean streams) using environmental variables, i.e., altitude, river slope, temperature, precipitation, latitude, and longitude for impacted sites in our dataset (n = 2,389). Using tests of sensitivity and intensity, 17 fish metrics showed a clear reaction to human pressures. However, 12 metrics responded exclusively within only one of the four FATs. Hence we observed a divergent reaction of fish metrics to human pressures in, e.g., headwater versus lowland rivers. Type-specific reactions are useful in customizing impact assessment for particular river types. It is of primary importance to understand the comparative sensitivity and efficiency of fish-based indicators of water quality for detecting human-induced degradation of river ecosystems.

DOI: 10.​1007/​s10750-013-1616-4

Type of Publication: Journal Article