, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 175-193

Predator–prey systems in streams and rivers

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Many predator–prey systems are found in environments with a predominantly unidirectional flow such as streams and rivers. Alterations of natural flow regimes (e.g., due to human management or global warming) put biological populations at risk. The aim of this paper is to devise a simple method that links flow speeds (currents) with population retention (persistence) and wash-out (extinction). We consider systems of prey and specialist, as well as generalist, predators, for which we distinguish the following flow speed scenarios: (a) coexistence, (b) persistence of prey only or (c) predators only (provided they are generalists), and (d) extinction of both populations. The method is based on a reaction–advection–diffusion model and traveling wave speed approximations. We show that this approach matches well spread rates observed in numerical simulations. The results from this paper can provide a useful tool in the assessment of instream flow needs, estimating the flow speed necessary for preserving riverine populations.