Patterns in the distribution of freshwater fishes in rivers of Central Western Ghats, India and their associations with environmental gradients

Abstract

The community ecology of freshwater fishes in four river systems (Sharavati, Aghanashini, Bedti and Kali) of the central Western Ghats (India) has been studied for the first time. Patterns of fish species distributions were analysed and important stream and environmental parameters determining the species richness and composition of this region were identified. Upstream--downstream trends in species richness and diversity as well as changes in stream characteristics were studied using univariate correlation analyses. Preliminary analyses on changes in species composition and feeding guilds showed the presence of a gradual species turnover along the stream gradient. There were associated changes in the major feeding guild compositions, with a higher proportion of insectivore and algivore/herbivore composition in the upper reaches shifting to a predominance of omnivores and carnivores downstream. Pearson’s product--moment correlation analyses along with stepwise multiple regression analyses identified stream depth and altitude as the important parameters determining species richness. Canonical correspondence analysis was performed to study species associations with environmental parameters. The analysis showed a strong species environmental correlation to the CCA axes, a high significance for the CCA axis 1 as well as for the overall test. The plots of the species and site scores on the CCA axes showed a clear segregation of species based on their relations with environmental and stream properties. This study is an important step in our understanding of the community structure of fish species of these rivers and would be helpful in future efforts on the conservation of aquatic communities and their habitats.

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Correspondence to Anuradha Bhat.

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Bhat, A. Patterns in the distribution of freshwater fishes in rivers of Central Western Ghats, India and their associations with environmental gradients. Hydrobiologia 529, 83–97 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-004-4949-1

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Keywords

  • community structure
  • species richness
  • composition
  • stream parameters
  • correlation
  • multivariate analysis