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

Preface: Stream Fish Communities from Patch Dynamics to Intercontinental Convergences

Kirk O. Winemiller


The six chapters that appear in the Macroecology section of this book review the state of knowledge in stream fish community ecology from the perspective of ecological theories, broad comparative approaches, and long-term research. In effect, these chapters provide a fish-eye view of the latest developments within the field of community ecology and also make the case that both river basins, insular in nature, and drainage networks, dendritic series of longitudinal habitat gradients, provide some of the best study systems for testing community ecology theories. Hugueny et al. (2010, this volume) argue that river basins are independent entities that can be studied using a “natural experiment framework” to test ecological hypotheses at large scales. Throughout most of the 20th century, community ecology was dominated by a deterministic/ equilibrium viewpoint that stressed how biotic interactions produce nonrandom patterns in the distribution and abundance of organisms. This Clementsian-Hutchinsonian-MacArthurian paradigm of community ecology sought universal patterns, governing processes, and rules that could allow ecologists and natural resource managers to make predictions about future patterns of population abundance and distribution. Under this paradigm, the focus of community ecology tended to be local because that is the scale at which organisms interact with one another. That is not to say that interregional comparisons were not relevant or important, but such comparisons provided weak inferences about mechanisms responsible for generating similarities and differences in species assemblages. Hugueny et al. (2010) demonstrate effectively that this latter area of research continues to produce new insights and hypotheses that subsequently can be tested using more hypothetico-deductive study designs capable of supporting strong inferences.