This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.
Living with an engineer: fish metacommunities in dynamic patchy environments
Different environmental preferences and dispersal abilities allow fish to coexist in local communities. We analysed the effect of engineering species on the community structure based on the example of European beaver Castor fiber, and mountainous European stream fishes. We hypothesized that the creation of beaver impoundments increases environmental heterogeneity, and causes a strong spatial and temporal variation in fish species composition and size structure. Lastly, we placed these our results in the context of the metacommunity theory. Our research was conducted over a relatively large spatial scale, and over a relatively long (5 yr) temporal scale. Data analysis revealed strong environmental gradients associated with stream size and increased environmental heterogeneity associated with the creation of beaver impoundments. The results also indicated strong spatial and temporal variation in fish species composition and size structure associated with this environmental heterogeneity. Although local communities changed over time, the main metacommunity characteristics remained constant. Fish must move and follow environmental changes for their populations and communities to persist in streams inhabited by beavers. Gaining deeper understanding of the effects of the engineering species on the fish community structure may help inform management and the conservation of stream ecosystems.
MF17255 Accepted 16 November 2017
© CSIRO 2017