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Environmental constraints structuring fish assemblages in riffles: evidences from a tropical stream


Riffles are unique habitats regarding to assemblage structure. However, understanding how these assemblages respond to environmental variations in small spatial extents, as within a stream, is a challenge. We assess whether the quantitative structure and the trophic composition of fish assemblages vary predictably among stream riffles. We predict that the variation of environmental conditions will explain species abundance and trophic composition, with the latter presenting higher predictive power, since species would be filtered according to their traits (e.g. diet). Moreover, we expect that the low among-riffle dispersal limitation within a stream and the strong habitat filtering would result in lower importance of spatial variables in the structure of riffle fish assemblages. We tested these predictions by studying 18 riffles of a stream in the Central Brazil. Environmental variables, but not spatial ones, were the most important in explaining the variation in assemblages structure. Environmental variables explained a greater portion of the trophic structure variation (R2=0.62) than of abundance (R2=0.37), indicating that the variation on the trophic traits at community level are more predictable. These results also indicate that these assemblages are subject to environmental control, highlighting the importance of riffle characteristics in driving ecological processes within streams.

Environmental filters; Mass effect; Mesohabitat; Metacommunity; Trophic composition

Sociedade Brasileira de Ictiologia Neotropical Ichthyology, Núcleo de Pesquisas em Limnologia, Ictiologia e Aquicultura, Universidade Estadual de Maringá., Av. Colombo, 5790, 87020-900, Phone number: +55 44-3011-4632 - Maringá - PR - Brazil