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Observed and projected functional reorganization of riverine fish assemblages from global change

April 6, 2023

Climate and land-use/land-cover change (‘global change’) are restructuring biodiversity, globally. Broadly, environmental conditions are expected to become warmer, potentially drier (particularly in arid regions), and more anthropogenically developed in the future, with spatiotemporally complex effects on ecological communities. We used functional traits to inform Chesapeake Bay Watershed fish responses to future climate and land-use scenarios (2030, 2060, and 2090). We modelled the future habitat suitability of focal species representative of key trait axes (substrate, flow, temperature, reproduction, and trophic) and used functional and phylogenetic metrics to assess variable assemblage responses across physiographic regions and habitat sizes (headwaters through large rivers). Our focal species analysis projected future habitat suitability gains for carnivorous species with preferences for warm water, pool habitats, and fine or vegetated substrates. At the assemblage level, models projected decreasing habitat suitability for cold-water, rheophilic, and lithophilic individuals but increasing suitability for carnivores in the future across all regions. Projected responses of functional and phylogenetic diversity and redundancy differed among regions. Lowland regions were projected to become less functionally and phylogenetically diverse and more redundant while upland regions (and smaller habitat sizes) were projected to become more diverse and less redundant. Next, we assessed how this model projected assemblage changes 2005-2030 related to observed time-series trends (1999–2016). Halfway through the initial projecting period (2005–2030), we found observed trends broadly followed modelled patterns of increasing proportions of carnivorous and lithophilic individuals in lowland regions but showed opposing patterns for functional and phylogenetic metrics. Leveraging observed and predicted analyses simultaneously helps elucidate the instances and causes of discrepancies between model predictions and ongoing observed changes. Collectively, results highlight the complexity of global change impacts across broad landscapes that likely relate to differences in assemblages’ intrinsic sensitivities and external exposure to stressors.

Publication Year 2023
Title Observed and projected functional reorganization of riverine fish assemblages from global change
DOI 10.1111/gcb.16707
Authors Taylor E Woods, Mary Freeman, Kevin P. Krause, Kelly O. Maloney
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Change Biology
Index ID 70242660
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center; Minnesota Water Science Center; Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center