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Size diversity and species diversity relationships in fish assemblages of Western Palearctic lakes

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Body size, coupled with abundance and taxonomy, may help to understand the mechanisms shaping community structure. Since the body size of fish is closely related to their trophic niche, size diversity (based on individual body size) of fish communities may capture intraspecific variations in fish trophic niches that are not detected by species diversity. Thus, the relationship between size diversity and species diversity may help to integrate variation at both intraspecific and interspecific levels. We studied the relationship between species diversity and size diversity as a measure of the degree of overlap in size among species and thereby the potential overlap in niches in a community. We hypothesized that the relationship between size diversity and species would be different across the European continent due to different levels of size overlap in fish communities. The data were derived from samplings of fish communities using standardised benthic gill nets in 363 lakes. At the continental scale, size diversity increased with species diversity; at the ecoregion scale, the slope of the relation changed across the continent, with the greatest mismatch occurring in northern Europe where communities comprised only one or a few species, but each of which exhibited a great range in size. There was an increase in slope towards the south with significant relations for four out of six ecoregions. The steeper size diversity‐species diversity slope at lower latitudes is attributable to a lower overlap in fish size and thus likely to finer niche separation. Our results also suggest that size diversity is not a strong surrogate for species diversity in European lake fish communities. Thus, particularly in fish communities composed of few species, measuring size diversity may help to detect potential functional variation which may be neglected by measuring species diversity alone.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2018

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