1. Understanding factors that regulate the assembly of communities is a main focus of ecology. Human-engineered habitats, such as reservoirs, may provide insight into these assembly processes because they represent novel habitats that are subjected to colonization by fishes from the surrounding river basin or transported by humans. By contrasting community similarity within and among reservoirs from different drainage basins to nearby stream communities, we can test the relative constraints of reservoir habitats and regional species pools in determining species composition of reservoirs.
2. We used a large spatial database that included intensive collections from 143 stream and 28 reservoir sites within three major river basins in the Great Plains, U.S.A., to compare patterns of species diversity and community structure between streams and reservoirs and to characterize variation in fish community structure within and among major drainage basins. We expected reservoir fish faunas to reflect the regional species pool, but would be more homogeneous that stream communities because similar species are stocked and thrive in reservoirs (e.g. planktivores and piscivores), and they lack obligate stream organisms that are not shared among regional species pools.
3. We found that fish communities from reservoirs were a subset of fishes collected from streams and dominant taxa had ecological traits that would be favoured in lentic environments. Although there were regional differences in reservoir fish communities, species richness, patterns of rank abundance and community structure in reservoir communities were more homogonous across three major drainage basins than for stream communities.
4. The general pattern of convergence of reservoir fish community structure suggests their assembly is constrained by local factors such as habitat and biotic interactions, and facilitated by the introduction of species among basins. Because there is a reciprocal transfer of biota between reservoirs and streams, understanding factors structuring both habitats is necessary to evaluate the long-term dynamics of impounded river networks.
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