Functional diversity and trait-environment relationships of stream fish assemblages in a large tropical catchment Academic Article uri icon


  • 1. The species composition of stream fish assemblages changes across the longitudinal fluvial gradient of large river basins. These changes may reflect both zonation in species distributions and environmental filtering of fish traits as stream environments change from the uplands to the lowlands of large catchments. Previous research has shown that taxonomic diversity generally increases in larger, lowland streams, and the River Continuum Concept, the River Habitat Template and other frameworks have provided expectations for what functional groups of fishes should predominate in certain stream types. However, studies addressing the functional trait composition of fish assemblages across large regions are lacking, particularly in tropical river basins. 2. We examined functional trait-environment relationships and functional diversity of stream fish assemblages in the Ro Grijalva Basin in southern Mexico. Traits linked to feeding, locomotion and life history strategy were measured in fishes from streams throughout the catchment, from highland headwaters to broad, lowland streams. Relationships between functional traits and environmental variables at local and landscape scales were examined using multivariate ordination, and the convex hull volume of trait space occupied by fish assemblages was calculated as a measure of functional diversity. 3. Although there were a few exceptions, functional diversity of assemblages increased with species richness along the gradient from uplands to lowlands within the Grijalva Basin. Traits related to swimming, habitat preference and food resource use were associated with both local (e.g. substratum type, pool availability) and landscape-scale (e.g. forest cover) environmental variables. 4. Along with taxonomic structure and diversity, the functional composition of fish assemblages changed across the longitudinal fluvial gradient of the basin. Trait-environment relationships documented in this study partially confirmed theoretical expectations and revealed patterns that may help in developing a better understanding of general functional responses of fish assemblages to environmental change. 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Pease, A. A., Gonzalez-Diaz, A. A., Rodiles-Hernandez, R., & Winemiller, K. O.

citation count

  • 129

complete list of authors


publication date

  • March 2012