Fish assemblage changes relative to environmental factors and time in the Warta River, Poland, and its oxbow lakes
Four oxbow lakes and two neighbouring sections of their parent Warta River (Odra River system, Poland) were sampled to investigate differences in fish assemblages between habitats in 1999–2000. Additional comparisons were made with 12 other oxbow lakes in this section of the river that were sampled 30–40 years ago. Downstream of a man‐made reservoir, higher species number, diversity and evenness were recorded in oxbow lakes than in the river channel. Upstream of the reservoir, differences in these variables from both habitats were insignificant. Fluvial and stagnant water samples were clearly separated in the multivariate space of a detrended correspondence analysis (DCA). For two oxbow lakes and two neighbouring sections of the Warta River, 12 abiotic and biotic environmental variables were available, and only velocity, water temperature and conductivity were significantly correlated with canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) axes. Fish assemblages of four recently investigated oxbow lakes were clearly separated in the multivariate space of DCA from other neighbouring oxbows sampled 30–40 years ago. Species previously subdominant were becoming rare. Oxbow lakes that are continuously or at least periodically connected with the channel are indispensable for maintaining high biodiversity and a sustainable fishery in the river system.
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