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Movement in Corridors: Enhancement by Predation Threat, Disturbance, and Habitat Structure

James F. Gilliam and Douglas F. Fraser
Ecology
Vol. 82, No. 1 (Jan., 2001), pp. 258-273
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2680101
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2680101
Page Count: 16
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Abstract

Movement by stream fish is known to be strongly influenced by abiotic factors such as floods and temperature, but roles of biotic factors, such as predation threat, and interactions of abiotic and biotic factors are less clear. Predation threat is known to fragment populations of killifish, Rivulus hartii, in Trinidad rivers by rendering habitat inhospitable. We asked whether such spatial fragmentation was accompanied by reduced movement by fish in the predator-occupied zone of a river, relative to a zone free of the strong piscivore, Hoplias malabaricus, that causes the fragmentation. We used a 19-mo marking study in a river with a predator barrier, field experiments in the river, and mesocosms to evaluate four hypotheses: (1) the predator reduces prey movement in the river; (2) for the special case of prey leaving refugia, the predator increases movement; (3) movement positively correlates with water level in the predator's presence; and (4) complex physical structure in hazardous habitat promotes prey movement. We marked 1467 Rivulus in the natural study areas and had 1015 recaptures. Contrary to Hypothesis 1 but in support of Hypothesis 2, prey showed greater movement along the river in the presence of the predator, regardless of whether the fish resided in a refuge at its previous capture. An experiment with introduced fish confirmed the findings that movement was elevated in the predator's presence. Effects of an abiotic factor (water level, Hypothesis 3) and a phenotypic trait (body size) depended upon whether the predator was present: movement was independent of water level and body size in the absence of the predator, but positively related to both variables in the predator's presence. Emigration from the river to tributaries was also independent of body size in the predator's absence, but positively size-dependent in the predator's presence. Complex physical structure (Hypothesis 4), in the form of cobble added to experimental pools, enhanced the transit of fish through hazardous pools. This study shows that spatial fragmentation does not necessarily imply that movement between fragments will be impeded (dynamical fragmentation). Rather, it is possible that movement among spatial fragments may be enhanced by the same factor, predation threat, that produced the spatial fragmentation in the first place. Because of the context-dependent effects of an abiotic factor (water level) and a phenotypic variable (body size) on movement, the study also emphasizes the need to clarify the exact role of predation as an agent promoting or retarding movement, and it suggests a need for incorporating such parameters into models of movement and metapopulation dynamics.

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