We studied eel population characteristics (size classes, densities and body condition) in the lower Loire River floodplain (France) to evaluate the effects of longitudinal and lateral gradients. A total of 36 sites were electrofished in June 2005. The sites were grouped first into three river segments according to the distance inland corresponding to a longitudinal gradient and secondly into three lateral connectivity categories. Results indicate that small eels, especially those £300 mm, were very abundant downstream but density rapidly decreased upstream. In addition, eels £150 mm tended to be most abundant in connected waterbodies. Conversely, the distribution of larger eels was quite uniform across both dimensions. Eel condition decreased upstream. In parallel, in downstream river segment, eels had a lower condition in disconnected waterbodies than in connected ones. Eel specialists still have only a longitudinal perception of eel habitat. Our results suggest that lateral gradients should be also taken into consideration.
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