Fish recruitment in a large, temperate floodplain: the importance of annual flooding, temperature and habitat complexity

K. Gorski, J.J. de Leeuw, H.V. Winter, D.A. Vekhov, A.E. Minin, A.D. Buijse, L.A.J. Nagelkerke

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54 Citations (Scopus)


1. Large river floodplains are considered key nursery habitats for many species of riverine fish. The lower Volga River floodplains (Russian Federation) are still relatively undisturbed, serving as a suitable model for studying the influence of flooding and temperature on fish recruitment in floodplain rivers. 2. We examined the interannual variability in recruitment success of young-of-the-year (YOY) fish in the lower Volga floodplain in relation to flood pulse characteristics and rising water temperatures in the spring. We sampled four areas with different flooding regimes, in three consecutive years (2006–2008). 3. Extensive areas with a long duration of flooding accommodated high densities of young fish. This suggests that extended inundation improves the recruitment success of river fish. In areas with extensive flooding, the biomass of YOY of most fish species was about three times higher in 2006 and 2007 than in 2008. We hypothesise that low spring temperatures in 2008 may have caused this reduced recruitment and that a flood synchronised with rising temperature enhances recruitment success. 4. Extensive flooding was particularly favourable for species characterised by large body size, delayed maturation, high fecundity and low parental investment, such as pike Esox lucius, roach Rutilus rutilus and ide Leuciscus idus. Gibel carp Carassius gibelio, a species tolerant of high temperature and hypoxia, did particularly well in small waterbodies in the driest parts of the floodplain. 5. Structural characteristics of floodplain waterbodies explained much of YOY fish density. These species–environment associations varied from year to year, but some species such as common bream Abramis brama, roach and gibel carp showed consistent relationships with structural habitat characteristics in all years, despite large interannual fluctuations in flood pulse and spring temperature
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2210-2225
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • upper parana river
  • of-the-year
  • life-history
  • carassius-auratus
  • american fishes
  • lowland rivers
  • abundance
  • patterns
  • connectivity
  • larval


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