Community Ecology of Stream Fishes: Concepts, Approaches, and Techniques

Preface: Conservation Challenges for Stream Fish Ecologists

Paul L. Angermeier


Most fish ecologists are well aware of the ongoing, pervasive declines in the distribution and abundance of many stream fishes (e.g., Jelks et al. 2008), as well as general deterioration in the condition of aquatic ecosystems globally (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). Furthermore, stream fish ecologists have long been important sources of scientific knowledge and personal commitment for conserving aquatic biota and ecosystems. It is entirely appropriate that this volume on current thinking about the ecology of stream fishes includes a section on conservation challenges—there are plenty to go around.

All of today’s conservation challenges were also present in the mid-1980s when the papers in Matthews and Heins (1987) were being written. Common themes in that 32-chapter volume include the roles of (1) stochastic versus deterministic processes, (2) resource partitioning and/or segregation, (3) phylogenetic history, and (4) variation in life history attributes in organizing stream fish communities. Each of these themes was and is germane to fish conservation. Several chapters in Matthews and Heins (1987) chronicled large-scale, long-term changes in aquatic ecosystems, along with their consequences for fish distribution and abundance, due to a wide range of human impacts on flow regime, sediment regime, and stream connectivity. However, discussion of the importance of biodiversity loss, potential conservation tactics, or how ecology informs conservation was largely absent. Only the chapter by Minckley and Meffe (1987), which summarized differential vulnerabilities of native versus nonnative fishes to natural flood regimes, explicitly discussed the conservation implications of authors’ ecological findings.

Including a “conservation” section in this volume signifies progress in establishing conservation as a key task in the job description of fish ecologists, including those working on stream, lake, and marine ecosystems. I commend the editors in taking this step forward. Moreover, I expect to see more ecologists become engaged in conservation as anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity become increasingly pervasive, severe, and harder to ignore when discussing ecological relationships and processes.