Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 13–26 | Cite as

Effects of river scale flow regimes and local scale habitat properties on fish community attributes

  • C. SenayEmail author
  • Z. E. Taranu
  • G. Bourque
  • C. J. Macnaughton
  • G. Lanthier
  • S. Harvey-Lavoie
  • D. Boisclair
Research Article


Community attributes result from processes operating at various spatial scales. The hierarchic organisation of rivers and the prevailing hypotheses about the variables that affect fish communities make lotic ecosystems particularly suitable to study processes taking place across spatial scales. The general goal of this study was to investigate how river flow regime and local habitat properties explain and predict fish community attributes in unregulated and regulated rivers. Our objectives were: (1) to identify the hydrological indices that best describe the flow regimes of river segments subjected to different regulation types (unregulated, run-of-the-river, storage, and peaking), and; (2) to estimate the relative importance of hydrological indices (river scale), and water depth, water velocity, and substrate composition (local scale) in explaining and predicting local fish community attributes (species richness, total density, and total biomass). We surveyed 880 sites (~300 m2) in 25 rivers (14 unregulated and 11 regulated) located in six physiographic regions of Canada. Based on a discriminant function analysis, nine hydrological indices were selected to represent river flow regime. Models of fish community attributes were developed using linear mixed-models (LMM) by nesting sites within rivers and regions. A few hydrological indices along with habitat properties predicted fish community attributes at the site scale (0.43< cross-validation \(R_{CV}^{2} < 0. 6 6\)). Specific hydrological indices and local habitat properties can be managed to preserve fish community attributes in regulated rivers. Combining variables associated with different scales in a LMM was a powerful and efficient way to model fish community attributes and produced reliable predictive models.


Flow management Habitat use Hydroelectric dams Spatial scales Hierarchical design 



This study was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to D. Boisclair, director of NSERC HydroNet. The authors thank P. Legendre, G. Guénard, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on the analyses and manuscript, all summer technicians for their hard work, and S. O’Connor (NSERC HydroNet network coordinator) for logistic and technical support. All work reported herein was conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the Université de Montréal CDEA and was approved by Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, Ministère des Resources Naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Parks.

Supplementary material

27_2016_476_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 25 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Senay
    • 1
  • Z. E. Taranu
    • 1
  • G. Bourque
    • 1
  • C. J. Macnaughton
    • 1
  • G. Lanthier
    • 1
  • S. Harvey-Lavoie
    • 1
  • D. Boisclair
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de sciences biologiquesUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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