Environmental drivers of α-diversity patterns in monsoonal tropical stream fish assemblages: a case study from tributaries of Narmada basin, India
This study aimed to evaluate environmental influences on fish distribution and to assess the extent to which concepts in river ecology accommodate levels of spatio-temporal heterogeneity of fish assemblages in a 1,080-km long tropical river. A total of 25 sites were sampled between November 2002 and March 2003 in two seasons (summer/wet versus winter/dry). A thermal gradient separating the upper reaches from the lower reaches was detected. The middle-upper reaches showed higher conductivity and lower dissolved oxygen and pH levels compared with the other reaches. Although some significant associations were found between some fish abundance and environmental variables, the most abundant species (Tilapia rendalli, Geophagus brasiliensis, and Oligosarcus hepsetus) occurred in most sites and under most environmental conditions. Fish community structure varied more in space (longitudinal) than through time (seasonal). The community in the lower reach species was more diverse in comparison with the other reaches. Differences in the fish assemblage structure among the longitudinal river sections appear to have been influenced by the effects of damming, and seem to be partially consistent with the Serial Discontinuity Concept, which views dams as discontinuities within the river continuum. Only the lower river reach showed seasonal differences in the fish community structure, attributable to the influence of flooding. Management plans and biodiversity conservation will benefit by considering the effects of dam disruption and flood increased connectivity to the lotic systems.