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Diversity 2017, 9(3), 26; doi:10.3390/d9030026

Does Stream Size Really Explain Biodiversity Patterns in Lotic Systems? A Call for Mechanistic Explanations

1
Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
2
Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 19 April 2017 / Revised: 26 June 2017 / Accepted: 1 July 2017 / Published: 8 July 2017
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Abstract

Understanding drivers of biodiversity is a long-standing goal of basic and applied ecological research. In riverine systems, there remains a critical need to identify these drivers as efforts to manage and protect rivers grow increasingly desperate in the face of global change. We explored one commonly cited potential driver of riverine biodiversity, stream size (e.g., stream order, watershed area, width), using a systematic literature review paired with an analysis of broad-scale macroinvertebrate and fish communities. Of the 165 papers reviewed, we found mostly positive, but no universal, relationship between biodiversity and stream size despite inconsistent use of over 30 measures of stream size. One-third of studies failed to report explanatory mechanisms driving biodiversity–stream size relationships. Across over 4000 macroinvertebrate and fish samples from 1st–8th order streams in the contiguous USA, our analysis showed biodiversity (Shannon diversity, functional diversity, beta diversity) generally increased with measures of stream size. However, because of inconsistent and generally weak relationships between biodiversity and stream size across organismal groups, we emphasize the need to look beyond simple physical stream size measures to understand and predict riverine biodiversity, and strongly suggest that studies search for more mechanistic explanations of biodiversity patterns in lotic systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: rivers; taxonomic richness; functional diversity; beta diversity; fish communities; macroinvertebrate communities; habitat size; watershed area; stream width rivers; taxonomic richness; functional diversity; beta diversity; fish communities; macroinvertebrate communities; habitat size; watershed area; stream width
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Vander Vorste, R.; McElmurray, P.; Bell, S.; Eliason, K.M.; Brown, B.L. Does Stream Size Really Explain Biodiversity Patterns in Lotic Systems? A Call for Mechanistic Explanations. Diversity 2017, 9, 26.

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