Factors influencing fish distribution and community structure in a small coastal river in southwestern Costa Rica

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We evaluated the relative importance of habitat size and diversity and distance from the ocean in explaining longitudinal patterns of fish distribution and community structure (species richness, evenness, and diversity) in the lower 5 km of the Rio Claro. The Rio Claro is a small coastal river in Corcovado National Park, southwestern Costa Rica, with a depauperate freshwater fish fauna. We observed 22 species in pools, 19 of which occured during quantitative sampling. Most of these species probably spent part of their lives in the Pacific Ocean. We observed no species in riffles, although these habitats were common and several taxa (e.g., Gobiesocidae, Gobiidae) were adapted for life in fast turbulent water. Fish abundance, and species richness, evenness, and diversity were highest near the ocean, where high tides influenced river levels and salinity. Eight species were not observed further than 2900 m from the ocean, whereas 6 species were not encountered in samples nearest the ocean; the remaining 8 species were present throughout the study area. Distance from the ocean was a better predictor of fish abundance and community structure than were pool width, pool depth, pool surface area, pool volume, amount of cover present, substrate diversity, or depth diversity. Based in qualitative comparisons of our data with previously published data from 1980-1986, the fish assemblage of the Rio Claro is persistent in both species composition and relative abundance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Costa Rica
  • distribution
  • diversity
  • fishes
  • habitat
  • rivers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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