Through the dam into troubled waters: Combined effects of stream fragmentation, habitat deterioration, and poor water quality on lowland stream fish distribution

Peter J.T.M. van Puijenbroek*, Anthonie D. Buijse, Michiel H.S. Kraak, Piet F.M. Verdonschot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This study aimed to distinguish the contribution of stream fragmentation and poor habitat and water quality to the decline in riverine fish species. The species presence was related to the number of barriers between a specific lowland stream section and the main river and to the length of the stream section remaining between two barriers. To investigate the relationship between the absence of fish species and poor ecological water quality, the EQR and stream velocity indices were compared between accessible sites where the fish was either present or absent. 79% of the 1039 km lowland stream length was disconnected from the river Meuse by one or more barriers and 34% by more than 5 barriers, while 28% of all stream sections were shorter than 2.5 km. Only 2% of sites scored a very good water quality, while all study sites were characterized by (very) slow flowing waters (<0.15 m/s). As many fish passages are built to improve connectivity, fish passages do not improve habitat quality. Gudgeon and stone loach were hardly affected by stream fragmentation, and only slightly by too short stream sections. Ide was moderately affected, while the migratory species chub and dace were severely affected by stream fragmentation. Chub and dace were also sensitive to poor habitat and water quality. Distinguishing the effects of stream fragmentation, habitat deterioration, and poor water quality on lowland stream fish distribution increased the understanding of the reasons for the presence and absence of species and may aid effective management and restoration efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1016-1024
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Volume37
Issue number7
Early online date14 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • barriers
  • connectivity
  • fish distribution
  • habitat deterioration
  • lowland streams
  • stream fragmentation
  • stream velocity
  • water quality

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