Abstract A spatially based approach was used to analyse the response of fish-based metrics to human impacts in the Iberian Peninsula. A fish-based typology was established that distinguished one salmonid type (fish assemblages dominated by Salmo trutta fario L.), two mixed types (S. trutta fario associated with different cyprinids) and six cyprinid types (dominated by different species of barbel [Barbus spp.], nase [Chondrostoma spp.] or chub [Leuciscus spp.]). These types broadly correspond to different forms of ecosystem functioning, ranging from the cold, northern and high altitude sections to warmwater, lowland and southern sections. Twenty metrics were identified that responded to disturbance – four to 14 per fish type. The highest correlations were −0.795 for abundance of Squalius sp. and segment (localised) disturbance and 0.754 for abundance of limnophilic specimens and water quality disturbance. Disturbance of segment, habitat and hydrological regime yielded more metric responses in western Iberian fish types, while that of habitat and water quality gave more in north-eastern Iberian fish types. Global (catchment scale) disturbance generally gave more responsive metrics and higher correlations than partial disturbances. All guilds were represented and a number of metrics were responsive across fish types – namely native species, alien abundance, water column (natives), eurytopic and invertivorous (natives). However, several metrics were only reactive in one or a few types, such as benthic and S. trutta fario in north-western mixed fish type. Different trends in metric reaction occurred for total abundance in north-western mixed fish type, and for eurytopic and phytophilic (natives) in the north-eastern fish types.