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Dispersal, disturbance and the contrasting biogeographies of New Zealand’s diadromous and non-diadromous fish species

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Abstract Aim 

To examine the relationship between diadromy and dispersal ability in New Zealand’s freshwater fish fauna, and how this affects the current environmental and geographic distributions of both diadromous and non-diadromous species. Location 

New Zealand. Methods 

Capture data for 15 diadromous and 15 non-diadromous fish species from 13,369 sites throughout New Zealand were analysed to establish features of their geographic ranges. Statistical models were used to determine the main environmental correlates of species’ distributions, and to establish the environmental conditions preferred by each species. Environmental predictors, chosen for their functional relevance, were derived from an extensive GIS database describing New Zealand’s river and stream network. Results 

In terms of geography, most diadromous species occur in a scattered fashion throughout extensive geographic ranges, and occupy large numbers of catchments of widely varying size. By contrast, most non-diadromous species show relatively high levels of occupancy of smaller geographic ranges, and most are restricted to a few large catchments, particularly in the eastern South Island. In terms of environment, there is marked separation of diadromous from non-diadromous species, with diadromous species generally caught most frequently in low-gradient coastal rivers and streams with warm, maritime climates. With a few notable exceptions, most diadromous species have lower occurrence in river segments that are located above obstacles to upstream migration. Non-diadromous species are usually caught in inland rivers and streams with cool, strongly seasonal climates, typified by a low frequency of high-intensity rainfall events. Main conclusions 

We interpret the contrasting biogeographies of New Zealand’s diadromous and non-diadromous species as reflecting interaction between their marked differences in dispersal ability and a landscape that is subject to recurrent, often large-scale, natural disturbance. While both groups are likely to be equally susceptible to local, disturbance-driven extinction, the much greater dispersal ability of diadromous species has allowed them to persist over wide geographic ranges. By contrast, the distributions of most non-diadromous species are concentrated in a few large catchments, mostly in regions where less intense natural disturbance regimes are likely to have favoured their survival.
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Keywords: Boosted regression tree; diadromy; dispersal; disturbance; fish; freshwater; species ranges; statistical model

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic., Australia 2: The Nature Conservancy, Great Lakes Program, Chicago, IL, USA 3: National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Hamilton, New Zealand 4: Department of Statistics, Stanford University, CA, USA

Publication date: 2008-08-01

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