Abstract Changes in land use have manifold effects on stream ecosystems. Consequently, the degradation of watersheds can cause extreme responses if the resilience of the stream is exceeded, triggering changes in fish communities and a reorganization of the ecosystem. Fish community surveys are frequently used to evaluate the impact of anthropogenic pressures on freshwater streams. Dynamic indices such as individual growth are also interesting because they integrate the effects of environmental conditions through time, providing an assessment in the long term. In this study we have investigated the ecological implications of watershed land use cover on fish diversity and growth of the generalist species Umbra limi (central mudminnow) in six streams in Southern Ontario (Canada). In detail, the growth of U. limi has been explored using a Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) model, which pursues a mechanistic explanation of the bioenergetics of an individual under different environmental conditions. Given the mechanistic approach, the outcomes of the DEB model can provide a solid foundation for extrapolating the conclusions of this study to a broader spatial scale. The results of this study reveal that the proportion of modified land use of the watershed (agricultural and urban land) can reach a tipping point beyond which the functioning of the stream abruptly changes. Consequently, land use cover may be used as a precautionary indicator for watershed management. The results also demonstrate that U. limi could be used as a sentinel species to identify potential impacts on fish diversity and size-at-age as a cost-effective indicator for stream monitoring programs.
- Land use
- Umbra limi
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Decision Sciences(all)
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics