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

Lethal and Nonlethal Effects of Predators on Stream Fish Species and Assemblages: A Synthesis of Predation Experiments

David J. Hoeinghaus and Fernando M. Pelicice


Abstract.—Ecological communities are structured by a combination of stochastic and deterministic processes, the latter including both abiotic factors and biotic interactions such as predation. Many studies, mostly in relatively stable ecosystems such as lakes, have demonstrated top-down effects on community structure and function. Communities or species in dynamic nonequilibrium ecosystems such as streams may also respond strongly to predation pressure. In this chapter, we review experimental research on effects of predation on fish assemblages in lotic systems, focusing on developments in the decades since Matthews and Heins (1987). Direct experimental evidence indicates that predators strongly affect lotic fish assemblages via direct and indirect pathways of lethal and nonlethal interactions. Across studies, predators consistently reduced prey density, caused changes in prey habitat use, and decreased prey activity levels. Predators may also affect aspects of prey life history and reproduction in streams, and the presence of multiple predator species may result in prey risk enhancement. Our review identified five areas needing additional research that may lead to further advances in stream fish community ecology: (1) linking predation experiments with theoretical models of fish assemblage structure and function, (2) quantifying functional traits of predators and prey, (3) manipulating whole assemblages and testing multispecies interactions, (4) understanding the role of predation in human-modified ecosystems, and (5) application of analytical approaches that facilitate integration among these areas of research as well as with observational field studies.