Community structure of fish in lowland streams differ substantially between subtropical and temperate climates
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Fish are important in the structuring of other communities and may have large effects on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. The structure of fish communities, in turn, seems to differ with climate. We compared the characteristics of fish assemblages in lowland streams located in two contrasting climates (cold-temperate Europe and subtropical South America) by use of published and unpublished data on streams of similar depth, width, and slope (n total = 91 streams). We also selected a subset of seven comparable little-affected streams in the two contrasting climates: temperate (Denmark, 55°–57°N, Dk) and subtropical (Uruguay, 30°–35°S, Uy) and compared the fish community structures in relation to environmental characteristics. We then analysed a series of potential explanatory factors behind the patterns observed, in particular the effect of ambient temperature, by comparing temperature-corrected community metabolism. Significantly higher species richness, higher densities, lower biomass, smaller mean body size, and lower mean weight of fish were observed for the subtropical streams than for the temperate streams, both in the literature review and in the subset of streams. Several characteristics of fish assemblages in streams may be explained by direct and indirect effects of temperature. Accordingly, fish in subtropical systems had a temperature-corrected community metabolism I m−2 equal to that of fish in temperate systems, indicating that temperature, besides historical factors, is an important driver of different size structures. Our findings concur with differences previously found in littoral areas of shallow lakes, suggesting that these patterns are not restricted to running waters. Our results elucidate how fish community structure might be affected by increases in temperature triggered by climate warming.
KeywordsSize structure Climate change Subtropical streams Temperate streams Metabolic theory of ecology Community metabolism
We are grateful to Anne Mette Poulsen for manuscript editing and Juana Jacobsen for graphical assistance. We deeply acknowledge the field assistance of César Fagúndez and Tito Olivera, the laboratory assistance of Soledad García, Soledad Marroni, Juan Pablo Pacheco, and Mariana Vianna, the logistic support and generosity of the Teixeira-de Mello family and the landowners and land workers in “Republic” of Tacuarembó, Uruguay, and the comments of Matías Arim. FTM, MM, and NM received support from the SNI (Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación, ANII, Uruguay). FTM is supported by a PhD scholarship from the SNB (ANII, Uruguay) and PEDECIBA, and MM by ANII-FCE (2009-2749) and the national award L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Uruguay (with support of DICyT). In Denmark, support was provided by EU EUROLIMPACS and EU REFRESH, the Research Council for Nature and Universe (272-08-0406), the STF project CRES, and FNU (16-7745). This paper received the Harald Sioli Prize award at the XIII Brazilian Congress of Limnology 2011 (Natal, Brazil).
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