Spawning habitat enhancement in the European bullhead (Cottus gobio), an endangered freshwater fish in degraded lowland rivers
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Due to river regulation, the natural habitat of the European bullhead (Cottus gobio) has been degraded and often there is an apparent lack of suitable spawning substrates (hard objects like stones). Addition of artificial structures to degraded habitats may be a very promising tool for habitat enhancement. In this study, we evaluated the use of ceramic tiles as artificial spawning substrates in canalised and (remaining) meandering parts of anthropogenically perturbated lowland rivers in Flanders (northern part of Belgium). Furthermore, we examined whether water depth and velocity were important determinants for the choice of tiles in these different river trajectories. Tiles were successfully used by the bullhead as spawning substrates. In the meandering parts of the river, the number of egg deposits was significantly positively correlated with water depth, while in canalised river parts, water depth and velocity were of no importance for tile usage. In general, supplementation of rivers with artificial substrates like tiles may be a promising, inexpensive and easy-to-use enhancement technique for degraded bullhead spawning habitat.
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