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Modelling roach (Rutilus rutilus) microhabitat using linear and nonlinear techniques


S. Brosse, CNRS, UMR 5576 CESAC-Université Paul Sabatier, 118 Route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cedex, France. E-mail:


  • 1Multiple linear regression (MLR), generalised additive models (GAM) and artificial neural networks (ANN), were used to define young of the year (0+) roach (Rutilus rutilus) microhabitat and to predict its abundance.
  • 20+ Roach and nine environmental variables were sampled using point abundance sampling by electrofishing in the littoral area of Lake Pareloup (France) during summer 1997. Eight of these variables were used to set up the models after log10 (x+ 1) transformation of the dependent variable (0+ roach density). Model training and testing were performed on independent subsets of the whole data matrix containing 306 records.
  • 3The predictive quality of the models was estimated using the determination coefficient between observed and estimated values of roach densities. The best models were provided by ANN, with a correlation coefficient (r) of 0.83 in the training procedure and 0.62 in the testing procedure. GAM and MLR gave lower prediction in the training set (r = 0.53 for GAM and r = 0.32 for MLR) and in the testing set (r = 0.48 for GAM and r = 0.43 for MLR). In the same way, samples without fish were reliably predicted by ANN whereas GAM and MLR predicted absence unreliably.
  • 4ANN sensitivity analysis of the eight environmental variables in the models revealed that 0+ roach distribution was mainly influenced by five variables: depth, distance from the bank, local slope of the bottom and percentage of mud and flooded vegetation cover. The nonlinear influence of these variables on 0+ roach distribution was clearly shown using nonparametric lowess smoothing procedures.
  • 5Non-linear modelling methods, such as GAM and ANN, were able to define 0+ fish microhabitat precisely and to provide insight into 0+ roach distribution and abundance in the littoral zone of a large reservoir. The results showed that in lakes, 0+ roach microhabitat is influenced by a complex combination of several environmental variables acting mainly in a nonlinear way.