The river continuum concept predicts prey assemblage structure for an insectivorous fish along a temperate riverscape Academic Article uri icon


  • 2018 by The Society for Freshwater Science. The river continuum concept (RCC) provides a framework for processes structuring lotic ecosystems by synthesizing sources and transport of C in streams. Considerable attention, refinement, and testing of the RCC has occurred since its inception >35 y ago, but few investigators have tested its predictions by explicitly linking consumer groups. We assessed insect assemblage structure in the diet of a broadly distributed insectivorous fish (Cottus carolinae) in the Roaring River continuum of Tennessee to test 3 predictions from the RCC: 1) longitudinal change in relative biomass of insect functional feeding groups (FFGs) including decrease for shredders, increase for collectors, intermediate maximum for grazers, and consistency for predators; 2) maximum taxonomic diversity at stream orders 3 to 5; and 3) temporal turnover in taxonomic composition across 1 y. We found that relative biomass of insect FFGs consumed by C. carolinae broadly matched predictions from the RCC. Maximum taxonomic diversity assessed at the family rank occurred at stream order 4 where diel and annual water temperature fluctuations were greatest, and monthly prey assemblages followed a sequence of turnover and a return to starting conditions across 1 y. Our novel approach illustrates proof of concept that RCC tenets are integrated into the diet of at least 1 higher-level consumer and, therefore, transcend assemblage boundaries in regulating the longitudinal (up- to downstream) and vertical (multiple consumer groups) flow of C in streams.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Curtis, W. J., Gebhard, A. E., & Perkin, J. S.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Curtis, William J||Gebhard, Amy E||Perkin, Joshuah S

publication date

  • September 2018