To examine the relations between fish community function and stream size, we classified 429 lotic freshwater fish species based on multiple categories within six species traits: (1) substrate preference, (2) geomorphic preference, (3) trophic ecology, (4) locomotion morphology, (5) reproductive strategy, and (6) stream size preference. Stream size categories included small streams, small, medium, and large rivers, and no size preference. The frequencies of each species trait category were determined for each stream size category based on life history information from the literature. Cluster analysis revealed the presence of covarying groups of species trait categories. One cluster (RUN) included the traits of planktivore and herbivore feeding ecology, migratory reproductive behavior and broadcast spawning, preferences for main-channel habitats, and a lack of preferences for substrate type. The frequencies of classifications for the RUN cluster varied significantly across stream size categories (P = 0.009), being greater for large rivers than for small streams and rivers. Another cluster (RIFFLE) included the traits of invertivore feeding ecology, simple nester reproductive behavior, a preference for riffles, and a preference for bedrock, boulder, and cobble-rubble substrate. No significant differences in the frequency of classifications among stream size categories were detected for the RIFFLE cluster (P = 0.328). Our results suggest that fish community function is structured by large-scale differences in habitat and is different for large rivers than for small streams and rivers. Our findings support theoretical predictions of variation in species traits among stream reaches based on ecological frameworks such as landscape filters, habitat templates, and the river continuum concept. We believe that the species trait classifications presented here provide an opportunity for further examination of fish species' relations to physical, chemical, and biological factors in lotic habitats ranging from small streams to large rivers.
Additional publication details
Comparisons of fish species traits from small streams to large rivers