Núria Vila Martínez

EFFECTS OF FLOW REGIME ON THE FISH COMMUNITIES OF THE LOWER EBRO RIVER

Aquatic ecosystems are characterized by a strong coupling between physical forcing and ecological processes. In rivers, this physics-ecology interaction is driven by flow, one of the main factors determining biological integrity. The combination of high flow alterations due to dam regulation and an increasing presence of alien species is endangering native fish communities in the Iberian Peninsula. The aim of this thesis is to explore the relationships between flow regime and fish communities in the lower Ebro River by analysing data from electrofishing campaigns collected during more than 10 years. We addressed this objective through three different approaches: On Chapter 1, the relationships between single species abundances and hydrological regime were evaluated while in Chapter 2 and 3 the objects of study were fish-based biological quality indices and size spectrum of fish community, respectively. To describe flow regime, we used a set of hydrological variables calculated from daily and hourly flow data series provided by the Ebro Basin Water authority (Confederaci?n Hidrogr?fica del Ebro). The results showed the importance of flow in shaping fish composition at species, community and size structure levels. This knowledge may prove useful for the development of ecological restoration tools and fish species conservation, especially in a context of increasing pressures over freshwater ecosystems (global warming, water consumption and invasive species, among others).

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