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Differences in sensitivity of native and exotic fish species to changes in river temperature

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Author(s): R.S.E.W. LEUVEN, A.J. HENDRIKS, M.A.J. HUIJBREGTS, H.J.R. LENDERS,J. MATTHEWS, G. VAN DER VELDE

Journal: Current Zoology
ISSN 1674-5507

Volume: 57;
Issue: 6;
Start page: 852;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Aquatic invaders | Global warming | Heat discharges | Lethal temperature | River Rhine | Thermal heterogeneity

ABSTRACT
This paper describes the effects that temperature changes in the Rhine river distributaries have on native and exotic fish diversity. Site-specific potentially affected fractions (PAFs) of the regional fish species pool were derived using species sensitivity distributions (SSDs) for water temperature. The number of fish species in the river distributaries has changed remarkably over the last century. The number of native rheophilous species declined up until 1980 due to anthropogenic disturbances such as commercial fishing, river regulation, migration barriers, habitat deterioration and water pollution. In spite of progress in river rehabilitation, the native rheophilous fish fauna has only partially recovered thus far. The total number of species has strongly increased due to the appearance of more exotic species. After the opening of the Rhine-Main-Danube waterway in 1992, many fish species originating from the Ponto-Caspian area colonized the Rhine basin. The yearly minimum and maximum river temperatures at Lobith have increased by circa 4 0C over the period 1908-2010. Exotic species show lower PAFs than native species at both ends of the temperature range. The interspecific variation in the temperature tolerance of exotic fish species was found to be large. Using temporal trends in river temperature allowed past predictions of PAFs to demonstrate that the increase in maximum river temperature negatively affected a higher percentage of native fish species than exotic species. Our results support the hypothesis that alterations of the river Rhine’s temperature regime caused by thermal pollution and global warming limit the full recovery of native fish fauna and facilitate the establishment of exotic species which thereby increases competition between native and exotic species. Thermal refuges are important for the survival of native fish species under extreme summer or winter temperature conditions [Current Zoology 57 (6): 852–862, 2011].

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