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Spatial organization of fish diversity in a species‐rich basin

Miranda, Leandro E., Killgore, Kenneth J., Slack, William T.
River research and applications 2019 v.35 no.2 pp. 188-196
basins, biodiversity, drought, fish, introduced species, rare species, rivers, watersheds
Many abiotic and biotic environmental characteristics in river basins show spatial gradients from river source to main stem. We examined the spatial organization of fish within the Duck River Basin to document patterns in diversity that could help guide conservation strategies relevant to controlling the detrimental effects of basin development. In all, over 0.33 million fishes representing 145 species and 18 families, including 9 non‐native species, were collected in 207 samples distributed throughout the basin. Main stem sites with large catchment areas supported more fish diversity than smaller sites in tributaries. Moreover, rare species were most common in the main stem and ubiquitous species in tributaries. The spatial organization of species assemblages was mostly nested, as assemblages appeared to disassemble in an upstream direction from main stem sites and confluences. These findings suggest that fish conservation efforts might emphasize main stem segments and confluences that support higher biodiversity including the rare species often most in need of protection. The main stem can support the populations needed to recolonize tributaries and rescue populations that might periodically go extinct after droughts or other major disturbances. In tributaries, conservation of species assemblages may focus on managing between‐patch connectivity via corridor maintenance or creation.