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A tenet of the flood pulse concept, the highway analogy, states that the mare channel of large floodplain rivers is used by fishes mainly as a route for gaining access to floodplain habitats. We examined this proposition by analyzing habitat use for freshwater fishes in 4 large rivers in the United States (Colorado, Columbia, Mississippi, Missouri) and 4 in Europe (Danube, Rhine, Rho??ne, Volga). Fish species from floodplain segments of each river were classified as fluvial specialist, fluvial dependent, and macrohabitat generalist based on literature and expert opinion. We also summarized the proportion of imperiled and introduced fishes present in each of these categories. The high proportion (mean ?? 1 SD = 29 ?? 17.5%) of fluvial specialist fishes inhabiting north-temperate large rivers was inconsistent with the highway analogy. Most members of the families Petromyzontidae, Acidpenseridae, Hiodontidae, Osmeridae, Salmonidae, and Gobiidae require flowing water during some life stage. Between 29 and 100% of the native fish assemblage was of conservation concern, and from 50 to 85% of these fishes required riverine habitats to complete their life cycles. Macrohabitat generalists are adapted to capitalize on floodplain habitats and composed from 44 to 96% of introduced fishes in the rivers studied. Habitat diversity inherent in main-channel complexes of unaltered large rivers and reestablished in regulated large rivers is essential to meet life-history needs of native fluvial fishes while discouraging expansion of introduced species. Restoration of north-temperate large rivers and their native fish fauna should incorporate the dynamic interplay among main channel, floodplain, and tributary habitats and processes.
Additional Publication Details
Conserving large-river fishes: Is the highway analogy an appropriate paradigm
Journal of the North American Benthological Society