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Quantifying the habitat and zoogeomorphic capabilities of spawning European barbel Barbus barbus, a lithophilous cyprinid

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posted on 23.01.2020, 13:50 by C Gutmann Roberts, T Bašić, JR Britton, Stephen RiceStephen Rice, Andrew Pledger
© 2019 The Authors. River Research and Applications published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Suitable gravel availability is critical for the spawning success of lithophilous fishes, including redd builders. Redd construction during spawning can alter substrate characteristics, thereby influencing hydraulic conditions and sediment transport, highlighting the importance of spawning as a zoogeomorphic activity. Here, interactions between redd-building fish and their spawning environment were investigated for European barbel Barbus barbus with a comparative approach across three English rivers: Teme (western), Great Ouse (eastern) and Idle (central). Sediment characteristics of spawning habitats were similar across the rivers, including subsurface fine sediment (<2 mm) content (≈20% dry weight), but elevated subsurface silt content and coarser surface sediments were found in the river Teme. Water velocities were similar at spawning sites despite differences in channel width and depth. Redds were characterized by a pit and tailspill, with no differences in surface grain-size characteristics between these and the surrounding riverbed, but with topographic alteration (dimensions and tailspill amplitude) in line with those of salmonids. Estimates of the fraction of the bed that spawning barbel were capable of moving exceeded 97% in all rivers. Estimated reproductive potential varied significantly between the rivers Idle and Teme (3,098 to 9,715 eggs/m2), which was largely due to differences in barbel lengths affecting fecundity. Larger barbel, capable of producing and depositing more eggs, but in more spatially extensive redds, meaning fewer redds per given surface area of riverbed. Predictions of barbel egg mortality based on sand content were low across both rivers. The effects of silt on barbel egg and larvae development are unknown, but the levels detected here would significantly impact salmon egg mortality. Similarities in fish length to redd area and the size of moveable grains by spawning barbel and salmon suggest they have similar geomorphic effects on sediments, although fine sediment tolerance is highly divergent.


Barbel Society

Environment Agency

Severn Rivers Trust



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment

Published in

River Research and Applications






259 - 279




VoR (Version of Record)

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© The Authors

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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Wiley under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at:

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Prof Stephen Rice Deposit date: 22 January 2020