Effects of temperature and water levels on dynamics of density and structure of the fish population of the channel-floodplain complex of a large river in the period of spring floods

Keywords: wetlands ecosystem; fish migration; factors influencing fish migration; upstream spring fish migration; spawning migration; boreal fish communities


The article discusses the features of the dynamic process of migration of ichthyofauna from wintering sites to the wetlands of a large boreal river for feeding and spawning. The influence of factors of temperature and water level on various groups of fish is estimated, and the role of water bodies of various types during fish migration in a flooded floodplain is also established. The research was performed during the spring flood in the floodplain-channel complex of the Irtysh River (Western Siberia, Russian Federation) in the water area of the conjugate water bodies: the lotic and lentic parts of the riverbed depression and the mouth of the tributary – transit section of the migration pathway of fish to the flooded floodplain. The research work was performed by “AsCor” – computerized hydroacoustic complex, hydroacoustic survey data were processed in the laboratory. The “AsCor” complex remotely performs taxonomic identification of abundant species of fish at the family level by groups (Cyprinidae, Percidae, Coregonidae–Esocidae, Acipenseridae–Lotidae). It was found that after the breakup of ice cover, maximum densities of fish were observed in the wintering sections – the initial location of the spring migration. During the 30-days observation period in the wintering sections and conjugate water bodies, the density of fish decreased from 4 to 13 times due to their migration to the floodplain. The response to a decrease in the overall density of fish in the year-round functioning lotic part of the riverbed depression to the influence of factors of water level and temperature regimes was >0.300 in general for ichthyofauna and for all groups of fish registered by hydroacoustic method (Cyprinidae, Percidae, Coregonidae–Esocidae, Acipenseridae–Lotidae). We constructed regression models of changes in the density of fish in the wintering sections of the river depending on the considered factors. Use of ANOVA analysis of variance confirmed the adequacy of the choice and the acceptability of the constructed models. We established a high statistically significant inverse correlation between the density of the fish, the water level and temperature regime for the mouth of the Konda River and the lentic part of the riverbed depression, which are transit sections of the migration pathway of fish in the floodplain. The lentic part of the riverbed depression may perform the function of a temporary station of fish during migration to the floodplain, which is beneficial from the point of view of bioenergetics resources. During the observation period, in the river flows there was a decrease in the proportion of larger fish and an increase in smaller individuals; in the lentic part of the riverbed depression, on the contrary, there was a reduced proportion of small fish and increase in the proportion of larger individuals.This pattern is explained by the reduced risk of predation by small fish in more turbulent conditions, as well as by an initial entry into the flooded floodplain of larger individuals of fish for spawning, followed by the smaller ones for feeding.


Abrial, E., Espínola, L. A., Rabuffetti, A. P., Amsler, M. L., & Wantzenb, K. M. (2019). Interannual flow variability in a large subtropical-temperate floodplain: A challenge for fish reproduction. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 76(3), 390–400.

Agostinho, A. A., Bonecker, C. C., & Gomes, L. C. (2009). Effects of water quantity on connectivity: The case of the upper Paraná River floodplain. Ecohydrology and Hydrobiology, 9, 99–113.

Batzer, D. P., Noe, G. B., Lee, L., & Galatowitsch, M. (2018). A floodplain continuum for atlantic coast rivers of the Southeastern US: Predictable changes in floodplain biota along a river’s length. Wetlands, 38(1), 1–13.

Baumgartner, M. T., Oliveira, A. G., Agostinho, A. A., & Gomes, L. C. (2018). Fish functional diversity responses following flood pulses in the upper Paraná river floodplain. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 27, 910–919.

Borisenko, E. S., Degtev, A. I., Mochek, A. D., & Pavlov, D. S. (2006). Hydroacoustic characteristics of mass fishes of the Ob-Irtysh basin are investigated. Journal of Ichthyology, 46(2), 227–234.

Bozeman, B., & Grossman, G. (2019). Foraging behaviour and optimal microhabitat selection in Yukon river basin non anadromous Dolly Varden Charr (Salvelinus malma). Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 00, 1–16.

Brönmark, C., Hulthén, K., Nilsson, P. A., Skov, C., Hansson, L.-A., Brodersen, J., & Chapman, B. B. (2014). There and back again: Migration in freshwater fishes. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 92, 467–479.

Chemagin, A. A. (2018). Osobennosti gidravliki rechnykh uchastkov ruslovykh zimoval’nykh yam reki Irtysh v period otkrytoy vody [Features of the hydraulics of the river sites of the riverbed depressions of the Irtysh river in the period without ice]. Bulletin of Astrakhan State Technical University, Series Fisheries, 3, 60–69.

Dudgeon, D., Arthington, A. H., Gessner, M. O., Kawabata, Z. I., Knowler, D. J., Leveque, C., Naiman, R. J., Prieur-Richard, A. H., Soto, D., Stiassny, M. L. J., & Sullivan, C. A. (2006). Freshwater biodiversity: Importance, threats, status and conservation challenges. Biological Reviews, 81(2), 163–182.

Dutterer, A. C., Mesing, C., Cailteux, R., Allen, M. S., Pine, W. E., & Strickland, P. A. (2013). Fish recruitment is influenced by river flows and floodplain inundation at Apalachicola river, Florida. River Research and Applications, 29, 1110–1118.

Espínola, L. A., Rabuffetti, A. P., Abrial, E., Amsler, M. L., Blettler, M. C. A., Paira, A. R., Simões, N. R., & Santos, L. N. (2016). Response of fish assemblage structure to changing flood and flow pulses in a large subtropical river. Marine and Freshwater Research, 68(2), 319–330.

Fernandes, R., Agostinho, A. A., Ferreira, E. A., Pavanelli, C. S., Suzuki, H. I., Lima-Jr, D. P., & Gomes, L. C. (2009). Effects of the hydrological regime on the ichthyofauna of riverine environments of the upper Paraná river floodplain. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 69, 669–680.

Górski, K., Buijse, A. D., Winter, H. V., De Leeuw, J. J., Compton, T. J., Vekhov, D. A., Zolotarev, D. V., Verreth, J. A., & Nagelkerke, L. A. (2013). Geomorphology and flooding shape fish distribution in a large-scale temperate floodplain. River Research and Applications, 29, 1226–1236.

Górski, K., Collier, K. J., Hamilton, D. P., & Hicks, B. J. (2012). Effects of flow on lateral interactions of fish and shrimps with off-channel habitats in a large river-floodplain system. Hydrobiologia, 729(1), 161–174.

Górski, K., De Leeuw, J. J., Winter, H. V., Vekhov, D. A., Minin, A. E., Buijse, A. D., & Nagelkerke, L. A. (2011). Fish recruitment in a large, temperate floodplain: The importance of annual flooding, temperature and habitat complexity. Freshwater Biology, 56, 2210–2225.

Goulding, M., Venticinque, E., Ribeiro, M. L. de B., Barthem, R. B., Leite, R. G., Forsberg, B., Petry, P., Silva-Júnior, U. L., Ferraz, P. S., & Cañas, C. (2018). Ecosystem-based management of Amazon fisheries and wetlands. Fish and Fisheries, 20, 138–158.

Granzotti, R. V., Tavares, R. W., Rodrigues, A. C., Lopes, T. M., & Gomes L. C. (2019). Environmental and geographic distance determining fish assemblage similarity in a floodplain: Role of flow and macrophyte presence. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 2019, 1–11.

Grift, R. E., Buijse, A. D., Van Densen, W. L., Machiels, M. A., Kranenbarg, J., Klein-Breteler, J. G., & Backx, J. J. (2003). Suitable habitats for 0-group fish in rehabilitated floodplains along the lower river Rhine. River Research and Applications, 19, 353–374.

Hurd, L. E., Sousa, R. G. C., Siqueira-Souza, F. K., Cooper, G. J., Kahn, J. R., & Freitas, C. E. C. (2016). Amazon floodplain fish communities: Habitat connectivity and conservation in a rapidly deteriorating environment. Biological Conservation, 195, 118–127.

Janáč, M., Ondračková, M., Jurajda, P., Valová, Z., & Reichard, M. (2010). Flood duration determines the reproduction success of fish in artificial oxbows in a floodplain of a potamal river. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 19, 644–655.

Jin, B.-S.,Winemiller, K. O., Shao, B., Si, J.-K., Jin, J.-F., & Ge, G. (2019). Fish assemblage structure in relation to seasonal environmental variation in sub-lakes of the Poyang lake floodplain, China. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 26, 131–140.

Junk, W. J., Bayley, P. B., & Sparks, R. E. (1989). The flood pulse concept in river-floodplain systems. Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 106, 110–127.

Krabbenhoft, T. J., Platania, S. P., & Turner, T. F. (2014). Interannual variation in reproductive phenology in a riverine fish assemblage: Implications for predicting the effects of climate change and altered flow regimes. Freshwater Biology, 59, 1744–1754.

Li, M., Gao, X., Yang, S., Duan, Z., Cao, W., & Liu, H. (2013). Effects of environmental factors on natural reproduction of the four major Chinese carps in the Yangtze river, China. Zoological Science, 30(4), 296–303.

Lucas, M. C., & Baras, E. (2001). Migration of freshwater fishes. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford.

Naus, C. J., & Adams, R. S. (2018). Fish nursery habitat function of the main channel, floodplain tributaries and oxbow lakes of a medium-sized river. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 27, 4–18.

Pauwels, I. S., Goethals, P. L., Coeck, J., & Mouton, A. M. (2014). Movement patterns of adult pike (Esox lucius L.) in a Belgian lowland river. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 23, 373–382.

Raborn, S., Miranda, L., & Driscoll, M. (2004). Diet overlap and consumption patterns suggest seasonal flux in the likelihood for exploitative competition among piscivorous fishes. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 13, 276–284.

Rakowitz, G., Berger, B., Kubecka, J., & Keckeis, H. (2008). Functional role of environmental stimuli for the spawning migration in Danube nase Chondrostoma nasus (L.). Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 17, 502–514.

Reinhold, A. M., Bramblett, R. G., Zale, A. V., Roberts, D. W., & Poole, G. C. (2016). Comparative use of side and main channels by small-bodied fish in a large, unimpounded river. Freshwater Biology, 61, 1611–1626.

Reshetnikov, Y. S. (2003). Atlas presnovodnyh ryb Rossii [Atlas of freshwater fish of Russia]. Nauka, Moscow (in Russian).

Röpke, C. P., Amadio, S. A., Winemiller, K. O., & Zuanon, J. (2016). Seasonal dynamics of the fish assemblage in a floodplain lake at the confluence of the Negro and Amazon rivers. Journal of Fish Biology, 89, 194–212.

Sommer, T. R., Harrell, W. C., & Feyrer, F. (2014). Large-bodied fish migration and residency in a flood basin of the Sacramento river, California, USA. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 23, 414–423.

Van de Wolfshaar, K. E., Middelkoop, H., Addink, E., Winter, H. V., & Nagelkerke, L. A. J. (2011). Linking flow regime, floodplain lake connectivity and fish catch in a large river-floodplain system, the Volga-Akhtuba floodplain (Russian Federation). Ecosystems, 14(6), 920–934.

Vanderpham, J. P., Nakagawa, S., & Closs, G. P. (2013). Feeding ability of a fluvial habitat-specialist and habitat-generalist fish in turbulent and still conditions. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 22, 596–606.

Vaughan, I., Diamond, M., Gurnell, A., Hall, K., Jenkins, A., Milner, N., Naylor, L., Sear, D., Woodward, G., & Ormerod, S. (2009). Integrating ecology with hydromorphology: A priority for river science and management. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 19, 113–125.

Vítek, T., Kopp, R., Mareš, J., Brabec, T., & Spurný, P. (2012). The influence of changes to abiotic parameters on the fish assemblage structure of a lowland stream. Acta Universitatis Agricultura eet Silviculturae Mendelianae Brunensis, 60, 207–216.

Walton, S. E., Nunn, A. D., Probst, W. N., Bolland, J. D., Acreman, M., & Cowx, I. G. (2017). Do fish go with the flow? The effects of periodic and episodic flow pulses on 0+ fish biomass in a constrained lowland river. Ecohydrology, 10, e1777.

Wang, C., Jiang, Z., Zhou, L., Dai, B., & Song, Z. (2019). A functional group approach reveals important fish recruitments driven by flood pulses in floodplain ecosystem. Ecological Indicators, 99, 130–139.

Ward, J. V., & Stanford, J. A. (1995). Ecological connectivity in alluvial river ecosystems and its disruption by flow regulation. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management, 11(1), 105–119.

Watz, J., & Piccolo, J. J. (2011). The role of temperature in the prey capture probability of drift-feeding juvenile brown trout (Salmo trutta). Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 20, 393–399.

Welcomme, R. (1979). Fisheries ecology of floodplain Rivers. Longman, London.

Winemiller, K. O., Montaña, C. G., Roelke, D. L., Cotner, J. B., Montoya, J. V., Sanchez, L., Castillo, M. M., & Layman, C. A. (2014). Pulsing hydrology determines top-down control of basal resources in a tropical river-floodplain ecosystem. Ecological Monographs, 84(4), 621–635.

Yudanov, K. I., Kalikhman, I. L., & Tesler, V. D. (1984). Rukovodstvo po provedeniyu gidroakusticheskikh s’emok [Guidelines for hydroacoustic surveys]. VNIRO, Moscow (in Russian).