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  1. Abstract

    Lotic systems in mountain regions have historically provided secure habitat for native fish populations because of their relative isolation from human settlement and lack of upstream disturbances. However, rivers of mountain ecoregions are currently experiencing heightened levels of disturbance due to the introduction of nonnative species impacting endemic fishes in these areas. We compared the fish assemblages and diets of mountain steppe fishes of the stocked rivers in Wyoming with rivers in northern Mongolia where stocking is absent. Using gut content analysis, we quantified the selectivity and diets of fishes collected in these systems. Nonnative species had more generalist diets with lower levels of selectivity than most native species and native species had high levels of dietary specificity and selectivity. High abundances of nonnative species and high levels of dietary overlaps in our Wyoming sites is a cause of concern for native Cutthroat Trout and overall system stability. In contrast, fish assemblages characterizing Mongolia mountain steppe rivers were composed of only native species with diverse diets and higher selectivity values, suggesting low probability for interspecific competition.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Stream fishes are restricted to specific environments with appropriate habitats for feeding and reproduction. Interactions between streams and surrounding landscapes influence the availability and type of fish habitat, nutrient concentrations, suspended solids, and substrate composition. Valley width and gradient are geomorphological variables that influence the frequency and intensity that a stream interacts with the surrounding landscape. For example, in constrained valleys, canyon walls are steeply sloped and valleys are narrow, limiting the movement of water into riparian zones. Wide valleys have long, flat floodplains that are inundated with high discharge. We tested for differences in fish assemblages with geomorphology variation among stream sites. We selected rivers in similar forested and endorheic ecoregion types of the United States and Mongolia. Sites where we collected were defined as geomorphologically unique river segments (i.e., functional process zones; FPZs) using an automated ArcGIS‐based tool. This tool extracts geomorphic variables at the valley and catchment scales and uses them to cluster stream segments based on their similarity. We collected a representative fish sample from replicates of FPZs. Then, we used constrained ordinations to determine whether river geomorphology could predict fish assemblage variation. Our constrained ordination approach using geomorphology to predict fish assemblages resulted in significance using fish taxonomy and traits in several watersheds. The watersheds where constrained ordinations were not successful were next analyzed with unconstrained ordinations to examine patterns among fish taxonomy and traits with geomorphology variables. Common geomorphology variables as predictors for taxonomic fish assemblages were river gradient, valley width, and valley slope. Significant geomorphology predictors of functional traits were valley width‐to‐floor width ratio, elevation, gradient, and channel sinuosity. These results provide evidence that fish assemblages respond similarly and strongly to geomorphic variables on two continents.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Resource polymorphism is a widespread phenomenon in post‐glacial fishes where multiple morphotypes of a species occur sympatrically and exhibit distinct resource use. Availability of open niches and high levels of within and among species competition are thought to drive differences in morphology and may provide insights into early stages of speciation. Hovsgol grayling (Thymallus nigrescens) are endemic to Lake Hovsgol, a lake colonised by fish following the Pleistocene, and are threatened with habitat loss due to climate change and illegal harvest. Previous analysis of Hovsgol grayling diet inferred through C and N stable isotopes suggested the presence of littoral and pelagic foraging groups. We hypothesised that morphology of the two foraging groups would reflect predictions of functional morphology, indicating the presence of resource polymorphism. To test this hypothesis, we evaluated evidence from C and N stable isotopes, stomach contents, fish ages, capture location and morphology. Two foraging groups of Hovsgol grayling were identified through stomach content and C and N stable isotope analysis. Individuals with greater zooplankton consumption were more frequently captured in the pelagic zone, exhibited higher gill raker counts, larger orbit (eye) sizes, longer paired fins, narrower head width, larger maxilla and smaller size at age than the group with greater reliance on benthic invertebrate prey. These differences were generally consistent with those described in other fish species exhibiting littoral–pelagic resource polymorphism. Our study provides the first example of littoral–pelagic resource polymorphism in the salmonid subfamily Thymallinae and highlights the potential influence of competition on fish evolution.

     
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  4. Abstract

    River hydrogeomorphology is a major driver shaping biodiversity and community composition. Here, we examine how hydrogeomorphic heterogeneity expressed by Functional Process Zones (FPZs) in river networks is associated with fish assemblage variation. We examined this association in two distinct ecoregions in Mongolia expected to display different gradients of river network hydrogeomorphic heterogeneity. We delineated FPZs by extracting valley‐scale hydrogeomorphic variables at 10 km sample intervals in forest steppe (FS) and in grassland (G) river networks. We sampled fish assemblages and examined variation associated with changes in gradients of hydrogeomorphology as expressed by the FPZs. Thus, we examined assemblage variation as patterns of occurrence‐ and abundance‐based beta diversities for the taxonomic composition of assemblages and as functional beta diversity. Overall, we delineated 5 and 6 FPZs in river networks of the FS and G, respectively. Eight fish species were found in the FS river network and seventeen in the G, four of them common to both ecoregions. Functional richness was correspondingly higher in the G river network. Variation in the taxonomic composition of assemblages was driven by species turnover and was only significant in the G river network. Abundance‐based taxonomic variation was significant in river networks of both ecoregions, while the functional beta diversity results were inconclusive. We show that valley‐scale hydrogeomorphology is a significant driver of variation in fish assemblages at a macrosystem scale. Both changes in the composition of fish assemblages and the carrying capacity of the river network were driven by valley‐scale hydrogeomorphic variables. River network hydrogeomorphology as accounted for in the study has, therefore, the potential to inform macrosystem scale community ecology research and conservation efforts.

     
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