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Grupo de Investigación en Ecología Acuática (EcoAqua)

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24/08/2020
The role of connectivity in the interplay between climate change and the spread of alien fish in a large Mediterranean river
Global Change Biology

Understanding how global change and connectivity will jointly modify the distribution of riverine species is crucial for conservation biology and environmental management. However, little is known about the interaction between climate change and fragmentation and how movement barriers might impede native species from adjusting their distributions vs. limit the further spread of alien species.

In this study we modelled the current and future distributions of eleven native and five alien fishes in the large and heavily fragmented Ebro River, located within the Mediterranean region, which has many freshwater endemics severely threatened by global change. We considered ten climate change models and five modelling algorithms and assessed the effects of connectivity on the accessibility of future suitable habitats. Thereby, we identify most conflict‐prone river reaches, i.e. where barriers pose a particular trade‐off between isolating and negatively impacting native species vs. potentially reducing the risk of alien species spread.

Our results projected upstream habitat shifts for the vast majority of the species. Climate change affected species differently, with alien species generally showing larger habitat gains compared to natives. Most pronounced distributional changes (i.e. losses of native species and gains of alien species) and compositional turnover might be expected in the lower and mid reaches of large tributaries of the Ebro River. The role of anthropogenic barriers in this context is often ambiguous but rather unfavourable, as they not only restrict native fishes but also alter stream habitats and flow conditions. However, with our spatial modelling framework, we could identify specific river reaches where the connectivity trade‐off in the context of climate change is particularly relevant. Overall, our findings emphasize the importance of the complex effects that climate change, riverine connectivity and alien species are expected to impose on river communities and the urgent need to adapt management strategies accordingly.

Radinger J. & García-Berthou E. The role of connectivity in the interplay between climate change and the spread of alien fish in a large Mediterranean river. Global Change Biology: in press.  [.HTML