From the years 1997 to 2000, fish assemblages from 15 groyne fields and training walls (a current guiding dyke, protecting the groyne field) of the Middle Elbe River (Germany) were examined by electrofishing. The aim of the study was to detect abiotic environmental key variables which determine preadult and adult fish assemblage in typical riverbank structures using multivariate ordination techniques (canonical correspondence analysis) and univariate methods (logistic regression analysis). Habitat preferences of preadult and adult stages of selected fish species were also estimated. Fish sampling was carried out at 190 river stretches; a further 1615 samples were taken by the point-abundance sampling method. In total, 21 732 preadult and adult individuals belonging to 30 fish species were caught; perch, eel, ide, roach, chub, gudgeon, bleak and white bream were the most frequent. Eurytopic species clearly dominated the fish assemblage with 72% total abundance, followed by rheophilic species (26%). Limnophilic fish species (rudd, crucian carp, stickleback and tench) were relatively rare (2% of total abundance), with frequencies of occurrence between 1 and 10%. The highest species diversities were estimated in structurally diverse training walls and groyne fields with defective groynes, whereas low species diversity was found to occur in poorly structured, strongly silted groyne fields with intact groynes. Additionally, typical seasonal and annual changes of the fish assemblage were observed. From the mesoscalic point of view, the structure of the preadult and adult fish assemblage was affected by both spatial (type of groyne field, river stretch) and temporal factors (year, season). Regarding the microhabitat, hydromorphological parameters (slope, current velocity, water level, predominant and secondary substrate) followed by physicochemical water values [dissolved oxygen (DO), temperature and pH-value] are of significance for the structure of the fish community. Furthermore, hiding places (shelter) are of subordinate but significant importance for the fish assemblage in the poorly structured main channel of the Elbe River. Importance or hydromorphological factors on the microhabitat scale was confirmed by multiple logistic regression in 12 of 14 preference models, conducted for different ontogenetic stages of roach, bream, white bream, bleak, ide, chub, gudgeon, asp, perch and eel. Habitat preferences of adult bleak and preadult roach were first determined by physicochemical water values and seasonal influences. Univariate models were generated to describe specific habitat preferences of different species and age-stages regarding the most important environmental variables (depth, velocity, predominant substrate, slope and shelter). Intraspecific differences were noticed between preadult and adult chub regarding preferences for water velocity, or between preadult and adult perch concerning slope of shore. Interspecific differences were observed, e.g. between adult roach and white bream, with regard to the use of shelters.
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