Quantifying effects of hydrological and water quality disturbances on fish with food-web modeling

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Journal Article
Journal of Hydrology, 2018, 560 pp. 1 - 10
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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. Accurately delineating the effects of hydrological and water quality habitat factors on the aquatic biota will significantly assist the management of water resources and restoration of river ecosystems. However, current models fail to comprehensively consider the effects of multiple habitat factors on the development of fish species. In this study, a dynamic framework for river ecosystems was set up to explore the effects of multiple habitat factors in terms of hydrology and water quality on the fish community in rivers. To achieve this the biomechanical forms of the relationships between hydrology, water quality, and aquatic organisms were determined. The developing processes of the food web without external disturbance were simulated by 208 models, constructed using Ecopath With Ecosim (EWE). These models were then used to analyze changes in biomass (ΔB) of two representative fish species, Opsariichthys bidens and Carassius auratus, which are widely distributed in Asia, and thus have attracted the attention of scholars and stakeholders, due to the consequence of habitat alteration. Results showed that the relationship between the changes in fish biomass and key habitat factors can be expressed in a unified form. T-tests for the unified form revealed that the means of the two data sets of simulated and observed ΔB for these two fish species (O. bidens and C. auratus) were equal at the significance level of 5%. Compared with other ecological dynamic models, our framework includes theories that are easy to understand and has modest requirements for assembly and scientific expertise. Moreover, this framework can objectively assess the influence of hydrological and water quality variance on aquatic biota with simpler theory and little expertise. Therefore, it is easy to be put into practice and can provide a scientific support for decisions in ecological restoration made by river administrators and stakeholders across the world.
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