Aim To document the patterns of fish species richness and their possible causes in China's lakes at regional and national scales.
Location Lakes across China.
Methods We compiled data of fish species richness, limnological characteristics and climatic variables for 109 lakes across five regions of China: East region, Northeast region, Southwest region, North-Northwest region, and the Tibetan Plateau. Correlation analyses, regression models and a general linear model were used to explore the patterns of fish species richness.
Results At the national scale, lake altitude, energy availability (potential evapotranspiration, PET) and lake area explained 79.6% of the total variation of the lake fish species richness. The determinants of the fish richness pattern varied among physiographic regions. Lake area was the strongest predictor of fish species richness in the East and Southwest lakes, accounting for 22.2% and 82.9% of the variation, respectively. Annual PET explained 68.7% of the variation of fish richness in the Northeast lakes. Maximum depth, mineralization degree, and lake area explained 45.5% of the fish variation in the lakes of the North-Northwest region. On the Tibetan Plateau, lake altitude was the first predictor variable, interpreting 32.2% of the variation.
Main conclusions Lake altitude was the most important factor explaining the variation of fish species richness across China's lakes, and accounted for 74.5% of the variation. This may stem in part from the fact that the lakes investigated in our study span the largest altitudinal range anywhere in the world. The effects of the lake altitude on fish species richness can be separated into direct and indirect aspects due to its collinearity with PET. We also found that the fish diversity and its determinants were scale-dependent. Fish species richness was probably energy-determined in the cold region, while it was best predicted by the lake area in the relatively geologically old region. The independent variables we used only explained a small fraction of the variations in the lake fish species richness in East China and the Tibetan Plateau, which may be due to the effects of human activity and historical events, respectively.