Impacts of natural disturbance on fish communities in the Tachia River, Taiwan

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Abstract

Extensive landslides triggered by the Chi-Chi earthquake of 21 September 1999 introduced debris into the middle section of Tachia River, while debris flow was subsequently induced by Typhoon Toraji on 30 July 2001. We compared population size, species composition, and diversity of the fish community during a six-year period before and after these disturbances. The dominant taxa were Acrossocheilus paradoxus, Crossostoma lacustre, Hemimyzon formosanum, Rhinogobius brunneus, Varicorhinus barbatulus and Zacco pachycephalus. H. formosanum and R. brunneus increased then decreased suddenly in abundance following the earthquake and the typhoon. Our results suggest that both resistance and resilience were important in maintaining long-term fish community structure. Fish community resistance at station 1 (downstream of the disturbance) was lower than at station 2 and station 3 (at and upstream of the disturbance). Fish communities recovered quickly after a few months, possibly reflecting a correlation between assemblage composition and seasonal variation. Our study illustrates the ecological variability that can be induced by hydrologic and evolutionary processes in a stream. Relative positions of habitats provide a spatial framework for evaluating stress effects of abiotic and biotic factors in regulating population size and community succession patterns.

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