Zoogeomorphological behaviours in fish and the potential impact of benthic feeding on bed material mobility in fluvial landscapes
journal contributionposted on 02.11.2018, 14:27 by Stephen RiceStephen Rice, Andrew Pledger, Julia Toone, Kate L. Mathers
Foraging by benthivorous fish can affect bed material mobility and sediment flux. This paper collates evidence of benthic feeding effects at local scales and evaluates the possibility that large numbers of foraging fish, each of which accomplishes a small amount of geomorphic work when feeding, may have a cumulative effect across river systems. A first synthesis of research from several disciplines provides a deeper understanding of how fish disturb and condition bed materials with implications for sediment mobility. To evaluate the spatial extent of benthic feeding and therefore the potential for it to have a large-scale effect, the distribution of benthivorous fish is established across a large river network. After quality control, the dataset yields a comprehensive set of fish community information based on over 61,000 individuals and 30 species at 176 sites. The factors that are likely to mediate foraging and its geomorphological effectiveness are considered. A novel scoring system that incorporates three key controls (fish feeding behaviour, fish abundance and fish body size) is then applied across the river network to provide the first prediction of where geomorphologically effective benthic feeding is feasible and its possible relative magnitude. Our results demonstrate that the potential for zoogeomorphic impacts is widespread but variable in space as a function of community composition and the abundance of key benthivores. A preliminary calibration against measured field impacts suggests that benthic feeding may cause measurable geomorphological disturbance at more than 90% of sites. Together, previous work and this unique analysis suggest that benthic feeding is sufficiently effective and extensive to warrant additional research. Investigating the role of benthivorous fish in fluvial geomorphology is important because it may yield results that challenge the assumption that biota are irrelevant sources of energy in geomorphological systems. Key research questions and a roadmap to facilitate progress are identified.
- Geography and Environment