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  3. 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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  4. Abstract

    Our project sought to determine ecological effects of adding low‐head dams and levees to large rivers by examining potential changes to aquatic food webs over a 70‐year period in the Lower Ohio River (LOR) and Upper Mississippi River (UMR).

    We employed museum collections of fish and compound specific stable isotope analysis of amino acids to evaluate long‐term changes in primary food sources for multiple species of fish in each river.

    Fishes in both rivers depended more on autochthonous than allochthonous carbon sources throughout the 70‐year period (based on measurements of isotopic signatures of algae, C3plants, C4plants, cyanobacteria, and fungi), but the relative use of different carbon sources differed between the UMR and LOR. Significant but opposite shifts in trophic positions (TP) between rivers over time (higher TP in the UMR; lower in the LOR) were correlated with major anthropogenic changes to habitat structure (e.g. slight decrease in abundance of side channels in the UMR; increase in pool water depth in the LOR) resulting from low‐head dam construction. They may also have been influenced by likely increased primary productivity in the UMR from agricultural nitrogen inputs and by possible shifts in the importance of phytoplankton versus benthic algae in the LOR from changes in water depth. Shifts in trophic position and reliance on various food sources were not correlated with variation in discharge, gage height, or temperature.

    Although these two rivers have contrasting hydrogeomorphic complexity (UMR is an anastomosing river, while the LOR is a constricted channel river) and different discharge patterns (seasonal versus yearly operation in some cases), both differ substantially from rivers having hydrogeomorphic changes resulting from construction of high dams (>15 m). It is not surprising, therefore, that factors controlling trophic position and reliance on different carbon sources vary among different types of dams and river structures.

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  5. Abstract

    We examined how communities of macroinvertebrates occurring in functional process zones (FPZs) are affected by the location of FPZs in the river continuum. We delineated FPZs for three rivers displaying significant disparities in elevation, annual precipitation, valley shape, and other valley‐scale hydrogeomorphic variables. We extracted corresponding macroinvertebrate community data from the US National Water Quality Monitoring Council database and matched it to the stream order (SO) and FPZ delineations. We examined community structure in the three rivers by partitioning the variances associated with the FPZ and SO delineations. Then, we examined community variation as patterns of beta‐diversity for communities of FPZs in different SOs. In total, 23 FPZ‐SO configurations were examined. SO and FPZ delineations contributed similarly to the variance in the structure of macroinvertebrate communities. Taxa turnover accounted for the majority of the compositional change in communities of FPZs along the river continuum, while the functional composition showed primarily a nested structure. Pairwise comparison of communities for each FPZ along the river continuum showed that significant differences in community composition occurred at high SO in the three examined rivers. In this manuscript, we show that communities of FPZs are only partially comparable along the river continuum as significant compositional changes occur when comparing communities of FPZs in distant SOs. We bring, therefore, new elements to improve the interpretation of the River Ecosystem Synthesis concept that can have wider implications for understanding the biocomplexity of hydrogeomorphic patchiness in river networks.

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  6. 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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