Life history strategies of stream fishes linked to predictors of hydrologic stability

Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Life history theory provides a framework to understand environmental change based on species strategies for survival and reproduction under stable, cyclical, or stochastic environmental conditions. We evaluated environmental predictors of fish life history strategies in 20 streams intersecting a national park within the Potomac River basin in eastern North America. We sampled stream sites during 2018–2019 and collected 3801 individuals representing 51 species within 10 taxonomic families. We quantified life history strategies for species from their coordinates in an ordination space defined by trade-offs in spawning season duration, fecundity, and parental care characteristic of opportunistic, periodic, and equilibrium strategies. Our analysis revealed important environmental predictors: Abundance of opportunistic strategists increased with low-permeability soils that produce flashy runoff dynamics and decreased with karst terrain (carbonate bedrock) where groundwater inputs stabilize stream flow and temperature. Conversely, abundance of equilibrium strategists increased in karst terrain indicating a response to more stable environmental conditions. Our study indicated that fish community responses to groundwater and runoff processes may be explained by species traits for survival and reproduction. Our findings also suggest the utility of life history theory for understanding ecological responses to destabilized environmental conditions under global climate change.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Life history strategies of stream fishes linked to predictors of hydrologic stability
Series title Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1002/ece3.8861
Volume 12
Issue 5
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center, Eastern Ecological Science Center
Description e8861, 20 p.
Country United States
State Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia
Other Geospatial Potomac River basin
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