In this review, we first summarize how hydrologic connectivity has been studied for riverine fish capable of moving long distances, and then identify research opportunities that have clear conservation significance. Migratory species, such as anadromous salmonids, are good model organisms for understanding ecological connectivity in rivers because the spatial scale over which movements occur among freshwater habitats is large enough to be easily observed with available techniques; they are often economically or culturally valuable with habitats that can be easily fragmented by human activities; and they integrate landscape conditions from multiple surrounding catchment(s) with in‐river conditions. Studies have focussed on three themes: (i) relatively stable connections (connections controlled by processes that act over broad spatio‐temporal scales >1000 km2 and >100 years); (ii) dynamic connections (connections controlled by processes acting over fine to moderate spatio‐temporal scales ∼1–1000 km2 and <1–100 years); and (iii) anthropogenic influences on hydrologic connectivity, including actions that disrupt or enhance natural connections experienced by fish.
We outline eight challenges to understanding the role of connectivity in riverine fish ecology, organized under three foci: (i) addressing the constraints of river structure; (ii) embracing temporal complexity in hydrologic connectivity; and (iii) managing connectivity for riverine fishes. Challenges include the spatial structure of stream networks, the force and direction of flow, scale‐dependence of connectivity, shifting boundaries, complexity of behaviour and life histories and quantifying anthropogenic influence on connectivity and aligning management goals. As we discuss each challenge, we summarize relevant approaches in the literature and provide additional suggestions for improving research and management of connectivity for riverine fishes.
Specifically, we suggest that rapid advances are possible in the following arenas: (i) incorporating network structure and river discharge into analyses; (ii) increasing explicit consideration of temporal complexity and fish behaviour in the scope of analyses; and (iii) parsing degrees of human and natural influences on connectivity and defining acceptable alterations. Multiscale analyses are most likely to identify dominant patterns of connections and disconnections, and the appropriate scale at which to focus conservation activities.
Additional publication details
Hydrological connectivity for riverine fish: measurement challenges and research opportunities