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Environmental determinism of year-to-year recruitment variability of European eel Anguilla anguilla in a small coastal catchment, the Frémur River, north-west France

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The influence of environmental factors (mainly the river flow) on the year-to-year variability of European eel Anguilla anguilla fluvial recruitment in a small coastal catchment, the Frémur River (north-west France) was examined. A comprehensive survey of catches from fixed traps at two weirs located at 4·5 km (Pont es Omnes Dam) and 6·0 km (Bois Joli Dam) above the river mouth was carried out between 1997 and 2004. Young pigmented elvers (mean ±s.d.total length, 133·7 ± 29·6 mm) were recruited in eel-passes from February to October, but the main runs followed a modal curve from April to September with a peak centred in May to June. Catches varied greatly between years, from 381 to 26 765 elvers. For each trap, a positive linear relationship between monthly mean river flow that preceded the maximal intensity of captures and annual total catches was observed. These relationships explained 73·1% (P < 0.01) and 89·0% (P < 0.001) of the year-to-year variability of the recruitment observed in the Pont es Omnes and Bois Joli traps respectively. A significant increase in river flow at the beginning of the migration peak would thus trigger a greater proportion of A. anguilla settled in the estuary and in the downstream zone of the Fremur River to begin their freshwater colonization. The physicochemical roles of changes in river discharge in stimulating upstream migration are discussed. It is concluded that fluvial recruitment in the Fremur River is mainly determined by environmental factors.

Keywords: habitat saturation; river flow; river recruitment; year-to-year variability

Document Type: Regular Paper

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2009.02288.x

Affiliations: 1: Fish Pass, Bureau Expert Gestion Piscicole, 3 rue des grands champs, Z.A. des 3 prés, 35890 Laillé, France 2: CRESCO, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, UMR BOME 5178, Dinard, France

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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