, Volume 140, Issue 4, pp 639–649 | Cite as

Geographic variation in patterns of nestedness among local stream fish assemblages in Virginia

  • Rosamonde R. Cook
  • Paul L. Angermeier
  • Debra S. Finn
  • N. LeRoy Poff
  • Kirk L. Krueger
Community Ecology


Nestedness of faunal assemblages is a multi-scale phenomenon, potentially influenced by a variety of factors. Prior small-scale studies have found freshwater fish species assemblages to be nested along stream courses as a result of either selective colonization or extinction. However, within-stream gradients in temperature and other factors are correlated with the distributions of many fish species and may also contribute to nestedness. At a regional level, strongly nested patterns would require a consistent set of structuring mechanisms across streams, and correlation among species’ tolerances of the environmental factors that influence distribution. Thus, nestedness should be negatively associated with the spatial extent of the region analyzed and positively associated with elevational gradients (a correlate of temperature and other environmental factors). We examined these relationships for the freshwater fishes of Virginia. Regions were defined within a spatial hierarchy and included whole river drainages, portions of drainages within physiographic provinces, and smaller subdrainages. In most cases, nestedness was significantly stronger in regions of smaller spatial extent and in regions characterized by greater topographic relief. Analysis of hydrologic variability and patterns of faunal turnover provided no evidence that inter-annual colonization/extinction dynamics contributed to elevational differences in nestedness. These results suggest that, at regional scales, nestedness is influenced by interactions between biotic and abiotic factors, and that the strongest nestedness is likely to occur where a small number of organizational processes predominate, i.e., over small spatial extents and regions exhibiting strong environmental gradients.


Stream fish Nested subsets Nestedness Species assemblages Spatial scale 



We thank Lenwood Hall (University of Maryland), Paul Kazyak (Maryland Department of Natural Resources), Peter Ruhl (United States Geological Survey), and Vann Stancil (Virginia Polytechnic and State University) for providing data to examine inter-annual variation in fish community composition. Two anonymous reviewers provided comments that significantly improved an earlier version of this manuscript. K.L. Krueger was supported partly by a Federal Aid grant from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosamonde R. Cook
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paul L. Angermeier
    • 3
  • Debra S. Finn
    • 4
  • N. LeRoy Poff
    • 4
  • Kirk L. Krueger
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Fisheries and Wildlife BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.US National Park ServiceSequoia and Kings Canyon National ParksThree RiversUSA
  3. 3.US Geological Survey, Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  5. 5.Department of Fisheries and Wildlife SciencesVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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