Species present in communities are affected by the prevailing environmental conditions, and the traits that these species display may be sensitive indicators of community responses to environmental change. However, interpretation of community responses may be confounded by environmental variation at different spatial scales. Using a hierarchical approach, we assessed the spatial and temporal variation of traits in coastal fish communities in Lake Huron over a 5-year time period (2001-2005) in response to biotic and abiotic environmental factors. The association of environmental and spatial variables with trophic, life-history, and thermal traits at two spatial scales (regional basin-scale, local site-scale) was quantified using multivariate statistics and variation partitioning. We defined these two scales (regional, local) on which to measure variation and then applied this measurement framework identically in all 5 study years. With this framework, we found that there was no change in the spatial scales of fish community traits over the course of the study, although there were small inter-annual shifts in the importance of regional basin- and local site-scale variables in determining community trait composition (e.g., life-history, trophic, and thermal). The overriding effects of regional-scale variables may be related to inter-annual variation in average summer temperature. Additionally, drivers of fish community traits were highly variable among study years, with some years dominated by environmental variation and others dominated by spatially structured variation. The influence of spatial factors on trait composition was dynamic, which suggests that spatial patterns in fish communities over large landscapes are transient. Air temperature and vegetation were significant variables in most years, underscoring the importance of future climate change and shoreline development as drivers of fish community structure. Overall, a trait-based hierarchical framework may be a useful conservation tool, as it highlights the multi-scaled interactive effect of variables over a large landscape.
- Freshwater fishes,
- Fish communities,
- Habitat (Ecology),
- Freshwater lakes
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/angela_strecker/16/