Assessing the natural and anthropogenic influences on basin-wide fish species richness

Su Ting Cheng, Edwin E. Herricks, Wen Ping Tsai, Fi John Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Theory predicts that the number of fish species increases with river size in natural free-flowing rivers, but the relationship is lost under intensive exploitation of water resources associated with dams and/or landscape developments. In this paper, we aim to identify orthomorphic issues that disrupt theoretical species patterns based on a multi-year, basin-wide assessment in the Danshuei River Watershed of Taiwan. We hypothesize that multiple human-induced modifications fragment habitat areas leading to decreases of local fish species richness. We integrally relate natural and anthropogenic influences on fish species richness by a multiple linear regression model that is driven by a combination of factors including river network structure controls, water quality alterations of habitat, and disruption of channel connectivity with major discontinuities in habitat caused by dams. We found that stream order is a major forcing factor representing natural influence on fish species richness. In addition to stream order, we identified dams, dissolved oxygen deficiency (DO), and excessive total phosphorus (TP) as major anthropogenic influences on the richness of fish species. Our results showed that anthropogenic influences were operating at various spatial scales that inherently regulate the physical, chemical, and biological condition of fish habitats. Moreover, our probability-based risk assessment revealed causes of species richness reduction and opportunities for mitigation. Risks of species richness reduction caused by dams were determined by the position of dams and the contribution of tributaries in the drainage network. Risks associated with TP and DO were higher in human-activity-intensified downstream reaches. Our methodology provides a structural framework for assessing changes in basin-wide fish species richness under the mixed natural and human-modified river network and habitat conditions. Based on our analysis results, we recommend that a focus on landscape and riverine habitats and maintaining long-term monitoring programs are crucial for effective watershed management and river conservation plans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-836
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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