Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 7, pp 1121–1136 | Cite as

Ecomorphological diversity of freshwater fishes as a tool for conservation priority setting: a case study from a Balkan hotspot

  • Anthi OikonomouEmail author
  • Fabien Leprieur
  • Ioannis D. Leonardos


Biodiversity studies commonly focus on taxonomic diversity measures such as species richness and abundance. However, alternative measures based on ecomorphological traits are also critical for unveiling the processes shaping biodiversity and community assembly along environmental gradients. Our study presents the first analysis of habitat-trait-community structure in a Balkan biodiversity hotspot (Louros river, NW Greece), through the investigation of the relationships among freshwater fish assemblages’ composition, morphological traits and habitat features. In order to provide a hierarchical classification of species’ priority to protection measures, we highlight the most ecomorphologically distinct species using originality analysis. Our results suggest that the longitudinal changes of habitat variables (water temperature, depth, substrate, altitude) drive the local fish assemblages’ structure highlighting the upstream-downstream gradient. We also present evidence for environmental filtering, establishing fish assemblages according to their ecomorphological traits. The calculation of the seven available indices of ecomorphological originality indicates that Valencia letourneuxi and Cobitis hellenica, which are endemic to Louros and threatened with extinction, exhibited the highest distinctiveness; thus their protection is of great importance. The methodological approach followed and the patterns described herein can contribute further to the application of community ecology theory to conservation, highlighting the need to use ecomorphological traits as a useful ‘tool’.


Balkan peninsula Conservation Ecomorphology Freshwater fishes Originality 



We express our gratitude to the drivers of the University of Ioannina for their help during the field samplings. We are also grateful to the personnel of the Amvrakikos Wetlands National Park for providing us with the necessary permissions. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. The research for this paper was partially financially supported by the Greek State Scholarships Foundation (IKY) mobility grants programme for short term training in recognized scientific/research centers abroad for candidate doctoral researchers.

Supplementary material

10641_2018_759_MOESM1_ESM.docx (811 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 811 kb)


  1. Angermeier P, Winston M (1999) Characterizing fish community diversity across Virginia landscapes: prerequisite for conservation. Ecol Appl 9:335–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bady P, Dolédec S, Fesl C, Gayraud S, Bacchi M, Schöll F (2005) Use of invertebrate traits for the biomonitoring of European large rivers: the effects of sampling effort on genus richness and functional diversity. Freshw Biol 50:159–173. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baillie J, Butcher E (2012) Priceless or worthless? UK Zoological Society of London, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Bănărescu PM (2004) Distribution pattern of the aquatic fauna of the Balkan peninsula. In: Griffiths HJ, Kryštufek B, Reed JM (eds) Balkan biodiversity, pattern and process in the European hotspot. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 203–217Google Scholar
  5. Barbieri R, Zogaris S, Kalogianni E, Stoumboudi M, Chatzinikolaou Y, Giakoumi S, Kapakos Y, Kommatas D, Koutsikos N, Tachos V, Vardakas L, Economou AN (2015) Freshwater fishes and lampreys of Greece: An annotated checklist. Monographs on Marine Sciences No. 8. Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, AthensGoogle Scholar
  6. Benjamini Y, Hochberg Y (1995) Controlling the false discovery rate: a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. J R Stat Soc Series B 28: 9–300Google Scholar
  7. Bobori DC, Economidis PS, Maurakis GE (2001) Freshwater fish habitat science and management in Greece. Aquat Ecosyst Health Manag 4:381–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brind'Amour A, Boisclair D, Dray S, Legendre P (2011) Relationships between species feeding traits and environmental conditions in fish communities: a three-matrix approach. Ecol Appl 21:363–377. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cadotte MW, Carscadden K, Mirotchnick N (2011) Beyond species: functional diversity and the maintenance of ecological processes and services. J Appl Ecol 48:1079–1087. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. CEN (2003) Water quality—sampling of fish with electricity. European standard EN 14011: 2003. E. Comité Européen de Normalisation, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (1994) Similarity-based testing for community pattern: the two-way layout with no replication. Mar Biol 118:167–176. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chan MD (2001) Fish ecomorphology: predicting habitat preferences of stream fishes from their body shape(unpublished PhD dissertation). Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, VirginiaGoogle Scholar
  13. Crivelli AJ (2006) Valencia letourneuxi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2006: e.T22830A9393054. Assessed on22/9/2017
  14. Dehling DM, Jordano P, Schaefer HM, Böhning-Gaese K, Schleuning M (2016) Morphology predicts species’ functional roles and their degree of specialization in plant–frugivore interactions. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 283:20152444. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Delling B (2011) Diversity of western and southern Balkan trouts, with the description of a new species from the Louros River, Greece (Teleostei: Salmonidae). Ichtyol Explor Freshwaters 21(4):331–334Google Scholar
  16. Economidis PS (2009) Fishes of inland waters. In: Legakis A, Maragou P (eds) The red data book of threatened animals of Greece. Hellenic Zoological Society, Athens, pp 86–94Google Scholar
  17. Economou AN, Barbieri R, Daoulas C, Psarras T, Stoumboudi M, Bertahas I, Giakoumi S, Patsias A (1999) Endangered freshwater fish of western Greece and Peloponnese: distribution, abundance, threats and recommended conservation measures. Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, AthensGoogle Scholar
  18. Economou AN, Giakoumi S, Vardakas L, Barbieri R, Stoumboudi MT, Zogaris S (2007) The freshwater ichthyofauna of Greece: an update based on a hydrographic basin survey. Mediterr Mar Sci 8:91–168. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frimpong E, Angermeier P (2010) Traits-based approaches in stream fish community analysis. Trans Am Fish Soc 73:109–136Google Scholar
  20. Gatz A (1979) Ecological morphology of freshwater stream fishes. Tulane stud zool bot 21:91–124Google Scholar
  21. Gkenas C, Malavasi S, Leonardos ID (2012) Diet and feeding habits of Economidichthys pygmaeus (Perciformes: Gobiidae) in Lake Pamvotis, NW Greece. J Appl Ichthyol 28(1):75–81. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Göthe E, Baattrup-Pedersen A, Wiberg-Larsen P, Graeber D, Kristensen EA, Friberg N (2017) Environmental and spatial controls of taxonomic versus trait composition of stream biota. Freshw Biol 62:397–413. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gorman OT, Karr JR (1978) Habitat structure and stream fish communities. Ecol 59:507–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heino J, Schmera D, Erös T (2013) A macroecological perspective of trait patterns in stream communities. Freshw Biol 58:1539–1555. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huang J, Mi X, Ma K (2011) A genome evolution-based framework for measures of originality for clades. J Theor Biol 276:99–105. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Hugueny B, Oberdorff T, Tedesco P (2010) Community ecology of river fishes: a large scale perspective. In: Gido KB, Jackson DA (eds) Community ecology of stream fishes: concepts, approaches, and techniques. American fisheries society symposium, Bethesda (Massachusetts), pp 29–62Google Scholar
  27. Humphries CJ, Williams PH, Vane-Wright RI (1995) Measuring biodiversity value for conservation. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 26:93–111. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ibañez C, Belliard J, Hughes RM, Irz P, Kamdem-Toham A, Lamouroux N, Tedesco PA, Oberdorff T (2009) Convergence of temperate and tropical stream fish assemblages. Ecography 32:658–670. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Isaac NJB, Turvey ST, Collen B, Waterman C, Baillie JEM (2007) Mammals on the EDGE: conservation priorities based on threat and phylogeny. PloS ONE 2:e-296. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kalogianni E, Giakoumi S, Zogaris S, Chatzinikolaou Y, Zimmerman B, Economou AN (2010) Current distribution and ecology of the critically endangered Valencia letourneuxi in Greece. Biologia 65:128–139. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kryštufek B, Reed JM (2004) Pattern and process in Balkan biodiversity – an overview. In: Griffiths HJ, Kryštufek B, Reed JM (eds) Balkan biodiversity, pattern and process in the European hotspot. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 1–8Google Scholar
  32. Lamouroux N, Poff NL, Angermeier PL (2002) Intercontinental convergence of stream fish community traits along geomorphic and hydraulic gradients. Ecology 83:1792–1807.[1792:ICOSFC]2.0.CO;2Google Scholar
  33. Larsen S, Mancini L, Pace G, Scalici M, Tancioni L (2012) Weak concordance between fish and macroinvertebrates in Mediterranean streams. PLoS One 7:e51115. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  34. Lasne E, Bergerot B, Lek S, Laffaille P (2007) Fish zonation and indicator species for the evaluation of the ecological status of rivers: example of the Loire Basin (France). River Res Appl 23:877–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Legendre P, Galzin R, Harmelin-Vivien ML (1997) Relating behavior to habitat: solutions to the fourth-corner problem. Ecology 78:547–562.[0547:RBTHST]2.0.CO;2Google Scholar
  36. Logez M, Pont D, Ferreira MT (2010) Do Iberian and European fish faunas exhibit convergent functional structure along environmental gradients? J North Am Benthol Soc 29:1310–1323. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lyons KG, Brigham CA, Traut BH, Schwartz MW (2005) Rare species and ecosystem functioning. Conserv Biol 19:1019–1024. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Magalhaes MF, Batalha DC, Collares-Pereira MJ (2002) Gradients in stream fish assemblages across a Mediterranean landscape: contributions of environmental factors and spatial structure. Freshw Biol 47:1015–1031. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mason NWH, Mouillot D, Lee WG, Wilson JB (2005) Functional richness, functional evenness and functional divergence: the primary components of functional diversity. Oikos 111:112–118. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Matthews WJ (1998) Patterns in freshwater fish ecology. Springer US, DordrectCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. May RM (1990) Taxonomy as destiny. Nature 347:129–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McKinney ML (1997) Extinction vulnerability and selectivity: combining ecological and paleontological views. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 28:495–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mims MC, Olden JD (2012) Life history theory predicts fish assemblage response to hydrologic regimes. Ecology 93:35–45. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Motta JP, Norton SF, Luczkovich JJ (1995) Perspective on the ecomorphology of bony fishes. Environ Biol Fish 44:11–20. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mouillot D, Culioli JM, Pelletier D, Tomasini JA (2008) Do we protect biological originality in protected areas? A new index and an application to the Bonifacio Strait natural reserve. Biol Conserv 141:1569–1580. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nixon K, Wheeler Q (1992) Measures of phylogenetic diversity. In: Novacek M, Wheeler Q (eds) Extinction and phylogeny. Columbia University press, New York, pp 216–234Google Scholar
  47. Ntakis A, Liasko R, Oikonomou A, Leonardos I (2015) Growth pattern of an endemic and endangered West Balkan peninsula trout species (Salmo lourosensis, Delling, 2010). J Appl Ichthyol 31:180–183. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Oberdorff T, Guilbert E, Lucchetta JC (1993) Patterns of fish species richness in the Seine River basin, France. Hydrobiologia 259:157–167. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Olden JD, Kennard MJ (2010) Intercontinental comparison of fish life-history strategies along a gradient of hydrologic variability. In: Gido KB, Jackson DA (eds) Community ecology of stream fishes: concepts, approaches, and techniques. American fisheries society symposium, Bethesda, Massachusetts, pp 83–107Google Scholar
  50. Olden JD, Kennard MJ, Leprieur F, Tedesco PA, Winemiller KO, García-Berthou E (2010) Conservation biogeography of freshwater fishes: recent progress and future challenges. Divers Distributions 16:496–513. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Olden JD, Poff NL, Bestgen KR (2008) Trait synergisms and the rarity, extirpation, and extinction risk of desert fishes. Ecology 89:847–856. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Ohlberger J, Staaks G, Hölker F (2005) Swimming efficiency and the influence of morphology on swimming costs in fishes. J Comp Physiol B 176:17–25. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Oikonomou A (2016) Biodiversity and biogeographical patterns of freshwater fishes of the Balkan peninsula. (Unpublished PhD dissertation). University of Ioannina, IoanninaGoogle Scholar
  54. Oikonomou A, Leprieur F, Leonardos ID (2014) Biogeography of freshwater fishes of the Balkan peninsula. Hydrobiologia 738:205–220. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Parenti LR (1981) A phylogenetic analysis of Cyprinodontiform fishes (Teleostei; Atherinomorpha). Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 168:335–557Google Scholar
  56. Pavoine S, Ollier S, Dufour AB (2005) Is the originality of a species measurable? Ecol Lett 8:579–586. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Pease AA, González-Díaz AA, Rodiles-Hernández R, Winemiller KΟ (2012) Functional diversity and trait-environment relationships of stream fish assemblages in a large tropical catchment. Freshw Biol 57:1060–1075. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pease AA, Taylor JM, Winemiller KΟ, King RS (2015) Ecoregional, catchment, and reach-scale environmental factors shape functional-trait structure of stream fish assemblages. Hydrobiologia 753:265–283. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Petchey OL, Gaston KJ (2002) Functional diversity (FD), species richness and community composition. Ecol Lett 5:402–411. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Poulos S, Kapsimalis V, Tziavos C, Pavlakis P, Livaditis G, Collins M (2005) Sea-level stands and Holocene geomorphological evolution of the northern deltaic margin of the Amvrakikos gulf, western Greece. Z Geomorphol 135:125–145Google Scholar
  61. Pyron M, Williams L, Beugly J, Jacquemin SJ (2011) The role of trait-based approaches in understanding stream fish assemblages. Freshw Biol 56:1579–1592. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. R Development Core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Version 3.0.2. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  63. Rahel FJ, Hubert WA (1991) Fish assemblages and habitat gradients in a rocky mountain-great plains stream: biotic zonation and additive patterns of community change. Trans Am Fish Soc 120:319–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Redding DW, Mooers AØ (2006) Incorporating evolutionary measures into conservation prioritization. Conserv Biol 20:1670–1678. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Scarnecchia DL (1988) The importance of streamlining in influencing fish community structure in channelized and unchannelized reaches of a prairie stream. Regul Rivers Res Manage 2:155–166. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schlosser IJ (1982) Fish community structure and function along two habitat gradients in a headwater stream. Ecol Monogr 52:395–414. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schluter D (1986) Tests for similarity and convergence of finch communities. Ecology 67:1073–1085. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Spitz J, Ridoux V, Brind'Amour A (2014) Let's go beyond taxonomy in diet description: testing a trait-based approach to prey-predator relationships. J Anim Ecol 83:1137–1148. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Sternberg D, Kennard MJ (2013) Environmental, spatial and phylogenetic determinants of fish life-history traits and functional composition of Australian rivers. Freshw Biol 58:1767–1778. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Strecker AL, Olden JD, Whittier JB, Paukert CP (2011) Defining conservation priorities for freshwater fishes according to taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity. Ecol Appl 21:3002–3013. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Tedesco PA, Hugueny B, Oberdorff T, Durr HH, Merigoux S, de Mérona B (2008) River hydrological seasonality influences life history strategies of tropical riverine fishes. Oecologia 156:691–702. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Tejerina-Garro FL, Maldonado M, Ibáñez C, Pont D, Roset N, Oberdoff T (2005) Effects of natural and anthropogenic environmental changes on riverine fish assemblages: a framework for ecological assessment of rivers. Braz Arch Biol Technol 48:91–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Tilman D, Knops J, Wedin D, Reich P, Ritchie M, Sieman E (1997) The influence of functional diversity and composition on ecosystem processes. Science 277:1300–1302. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tonn WM, Magnuson JJ, Rask M, Toivonen J (1990) Intercontinental comparison of small-lake fish assemblages: the balance between local and regional processes. Am Nat 136:345–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Townsend CR, Hildrew AG (1994) Species traits in relation to a habitat templet for river systems. Freshw Biol 31:265–275. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Tuset VM, Farré M, Lombarte A, Bordes F, Wienerroither R, Olivar P (2014) A comparative study of morphospace occupation of mesopelagic fish assemblages from the Canary Islands (north-eastern Atlantic). Ichthyol Res 61:152–158. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Vane-Wright RI, Humphries CJ, Williams PH (1991) What to protect? Systematics and the agony of choice. Biol Conserv 55:235–254. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Vannote RL, Minshall GW, Cummins KW, Sedell JR, Cushing CE (1980) The river continuum concept. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 37:130–137. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Villéger S, Ramos Miranda J, Hernández FD, Mouillot D (2010) Contrasting changes in taxonomic vs functional diversity of tropical fish assemblages after habitat degradation. Ecol Appl 20:1512–1522. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  80. Villéger S, Brosse S, Mouchet M, Mouillot D, Vanni MJ (2017) Functional ecology of fish: current approaches and future challenges. Aquat Sci 79:783–801. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Vogiatzi E, Kalogianni E, Zimmerman B, Giakoumi S, Barbieri R, Paschou P, Magoulas A, Tsaparis D, Poulakakis N, Tsigenopoulos CS (2014) Reduced genetic variation and strong genetic population structure in the freshwater killifish. Biol J Linn Soc 111:334–349. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wainwright PC (1994) Functional morphology as a tool in ecological research. In: Wainwright PC, Reilly SM (eds) Ecological morphology: integrative organismal biology. University Chicago press, Chicago, pp 42–59Google Scholar
  83. Wainwright PC, Bellwood DR, Westneat MW (2002) Ecomorphology of locomotion in labrid fishes. Environ Biol Fish 65:47–62. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Webb PW (1984) Form and function in fish swimming. Sci Am 251:72–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Winemiller KΟ (1991) Ecomorphological diversification in lowland freshwater fish assemblages from five biotic regions. Ecol Monogr 61:343–365. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Winemiller KΟ (2005) Life history strategies, population regulation, and implications for fisheries management. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 62:872–885. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Witting L, Loeschke V (1995) The optimization of biodiversity conservation. Biol Conserv 71:205–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Zalewski M, Naiman RJ (1985) The regulation of riverine fish communities by a continuum of abiotic-biotic factors. In: Alabaster JS (ed) Habitat modification and freshwater fisheries. FAO/UN/Butterworths scientific, London, pp 3–9Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Zoology, Department of Biological Applications and TechnologyUniversity of IoanninaIoanninaGreece
  2. 2.Hellenic Centre for Marine Research Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland WatersAnavyssosGreece
  3. 3.UMR MARBEC “Biodiversité marine, Exploitation et Conservation” (CNRS-IFREMER-IRD-UM) Université de MontpellierMontpellier Cedex 5France

Personalised recommendations