, Volume 422-423, Issue 0, pp 319-330

Habitat condition and fish assemblage structure in a coastal mediterranean stream (Yarqon, Israel) receiving domestic effluent

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Abstract

The Yarqon stream is the largest urban stream in Israel. In the past 40 y it was severely impacted by human action. Fish kills occur along the polluted sections of the stream almost regularly following winter floods and when poor-quality effluent is discharged into the stream. These events attest to the serious ecological state of the Yarqon stream. We studied the interaction between habitat conditions and fish assemblage structure for four consecutive years. Comparison of certain water quality variables among selected sites along the upper and central stream sections of the Yarqon indicated that the two stream sections differ significantly in electric conductivity and organic load (BOD) but not in temperature and dissolved oxygen. The average species richness and fish abundance in the upper, relatively undisturbed section is significantly higher than in the downstream, upper reach of the central section where domestic effluents enter the stream. In contrast, fish biomass is usually higher in the central stream section. Organic load was the only factor among the four water quality variables measured that significantly correlates with variables of the fish assemblage. A curve fit analysis between organic load and fish species richness and abundance suggests a threshold at ca. 10 mg l-1 BOD, above which most fish species totally avoid polluted habitats. Separate Multi Dimensional Scaling (MDS) analyses of water quality variables and fish assemblages clearly separated between the sites in the upper and the central stream sections. When the result of the fish MDS analysis was graphically superimposed on the result of the water quality MDS analysis, we found a close overlap between the two, suggesting a strong association between water quality and the fish assemblage structure in the Yarqon stream.