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

Community Ecology of River Fishes: A Large-Scale Perspective

Bernard Hugueny, Thierry Oberdorff, and Pablo A. Tedesco


Abstract.—Community ecology increasingly seeks to integrate the influences of regional and historical processes with species interactions within local habitats. This broadened perspective is largely based on comparative approaches that employ “natural experiments” to identify factors shaping community structure. Because coastal rivers are separated from one another by insurmountable barriers (oceans or land), freshwater fishes are particularly well suited for comparative analyses of factors that influence fish community organization. In this chapter, we review how this comparative approach shed light on large-scale biodiversity gradients, community saturation, community convergence, density compensation, and the role of intrinsic and extrinsic factors in community dynamics. The main factors (e.g., river mouth discharge and history) empirically related to species richness of a river are well identified, and metacommunity ecology provides a fruitful conceptual framework for understanding how regional (river) species richness translates into local species richness. Much work remains to identify factors explaining differences among whole river basin assemblages with regard to ecological traits (e.g., trophic status and life history) composition and to assess whether trait-related environmental and biotic local filters act similarly over large spatial scales. One important conclusion that can be drawn from the studies reviewed here is that history cannot be neglected whatever the scale of investigation (global, river, or site). A second conclusion is that historical effects are not strong enough to blur the occurrence of qualitatively repeatable patterns of community structure over large spatial scale, which is encouraging because it suggests development of general predictive models of community structure is an attainable goal.