Local and regional determinants of stream fish assemblage structure: inferences based on taxonomic vs. functional groups
To examine the roles of local and regional environmental variables and biotic interactions in determining the structure of local stream fish assemblages, and to compare results derived from analyses based on taxonomic and functional groups. Location
Texas, USA. Methods
Species abundance data were compiled for 157 stream fish assemblages in several river basins across Texas. Species were condensed into functional groups based on trophic and life-history characteristics. Local and regional environmental variables were either measured at each location or determined from scale maps and public-access data bases. The original taxonomic and functional group data sets were analysed using similarity indices, null models of co-occurrence, and direct and indirect ordination techniques. Results derived from taxonomic and functional group data sets are compared. Results
Inferences regarding the relative roles of local and larger-scale factors in determining stream fish assemblage structure differ dramatically between analyses of taxonomic and functional groups. Taxonomic analyses suggest a prominent role of regional-scale environmental factors, and local assemblages sorted according to a biogeographic pattern. Functional group analyses suggest almost equal roles of factors representative of local and larger scales, and assemblages were distinguished by a habitat template irrespective of geographic region. Main conclusions
The structure of local stream fish assemblages is determined ultimately by factors representing multiple scales, with the relative importance of each depending on the biological unit employed (species or functional groups). We suggest that analyses using functional groups can more directly infer ecological responses to environmental variation, and therefore may provide a more fruitful avenue for developing and testing ecological theory of community organization across biogeographic scales.