, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 1319-1334

Factors influencing the spatial distribution patterns of the bullhead (Cottus gobio L., Teleostei Cottidae): a multi-scale study

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We used general linear modelling to assess the influence of environmental variables on the spatial distribution patterns of the bullhead (Cottus gobio) at stream system, site, and microhabitat scales in southwestern France. Bullheads occurred at 67 sites (out of 554 sampling sites), chiefly close to the source, in small and shallow streams. Population density at a site was primarily influenced by thermal conditions. Stream width was negatively related to the probability of presence of bullheads within the stream system, but positively related to local density, showing that bullhead density could increase within a range of stream width, but that wider rivers were unsuitable. Slope was negatively correlated to bullhead’s occurrence and local density, and depth was negatively correlated to local density and microhabitat use, suggesting that bullhead’s shimming performance was weak under greater erosive forces. Therefore, the most significant results suggested that the distribution of populations and individuals was first governed by the suitability of physical and hydraulic habitat, then population dynamics at a site was mainly governed by the thermal regime. Multi-scale studies of factors influencing a species’ distribution thus allow to integrate patterns observed at different scales, and enhance our understanding of interactions between animals and their environment. Such models are essential in the exploratory phase of fundamental and applied investigations, because they help to target further research, and they should influence the measures to be taken in field surveys or conservation plans.