[Truncated abstract] This study investigated the organisational role of environmental stability on the fish communities that inhabit the Fortescue River, an intermittent and variable system in north-Western Australia. It did so by examining the relationships between pool stability (measured by persistence of water through time, and variation in maximum pool depth through time) and the number and type of species within pools, temporal fluctuations in total fish abundance and intra-specific abundance, population size frequency distributions, and growth rate. It also examined the association between life history traits and the stability of the environments occupied within the river, and the stability of the river at large. The results indicated that environmental stability was the major factor structuring the fish communities. Among-pool comparisons revealed that unstable pools contained fewer species, a greater fraction of juvenile size classes, and underwent greater fluctuations in total and intra-specific numerical abundance through time, than stable pools . . . Stability affected community structure by determining (or describing) the probability that a pool would undergo periods of extreme shrinkage, that is, the likelihood that fish will be exposed to extreme physico-chemical fluctuations and complete eradication. While the physical environment (acting through stability) primarily structured the fish communities of the Fortescue River there was indirect evidence that even within this variable river system, biological interactions played a role, albeit minor. Future investigations into the role of environmental stability will benefit from the use of accepted and quantitative methods by all stream ecologists.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Publication status||Unpublished - 2006|