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Species‐Area Relationship for Stream Fishes

Angermeier, Paul L., Schlosser, Isaac J.
Ecology 1989 v.70 no.5 pp. 1450-1462
environmental factors, extinction, fish, habitats, linear models, regression analysis, reproductive success, species diversity, streams, winter, Illinois, Minnesota, Panama
We sampled riffles and pool habitats of small streams in Minnesota, Illinois, and Panama to examine variation in species—area relationships within and between the respective fish faunas. For six of the seven steams studies, habitat lume was a better predictor of species richness than was habitat area, and number of individuals was a better predictor of species richness than habitat volume. Slopes of species–volume relationships were similar among regions, but the number of species per unit volume was greater in Panama. Multiple regression analyses indicated that knowledge of habitat complexity and volume did not enhance appreciably the capability of linear models to predict species richness from number of individuals in the sample. These results support the hypothesis that species—area relationships may often be epiphenomena stemming from the more comprehensive community "samples" intercepted by larger habitat patches. Although number of individuals was the best single predictor of species richness, habitat structure and type clearly influenced species' distributions in some streams, thereby indicating that species—area relationships were not strictly sampling phenomena. An index of habitat complexity based on depth, current, and bottom type was correlated with species richness in two Panama streams. Also, the abundance of individual species was more likely to be correlated with habitat volume in Panama than in Illinois or Minnesota, and species relative abundances were more similar between years in Panama than in Illinois or Minnesota streams, especially in pools. These patterns suggest that in streams subject to strong seasonal and annual environmental variation, habitat features are poorer predictors of fish distribution and abundance than in streams subject to less environmental variability. We speculate that annual variability in reproductive success and harsh winters interact to maintain imbalance between the fish assemblages and their habitat in Minnesota. Weak relationships between species richness and habitat volume or complexity may be indicative of population variability and the predominance of extinction/recolonization processes in community organization.