Date of Award:

5-2009

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Watershed Sciences

Advisor/Chair:

Todd A Crowl

Abstract

A landscape perspective is critically important for understanding community structure, particularly in systems dominated by migratory fauna. I aimed to understand how the structure of riverscapes in Puerto Rico mediates potential anthropogenic impacts, predator-prey interactions, and the migratory behavior of a diadromous species. I surveyed fishes and shrimps at sites throughout two watersheds, designed transplant experiments that investigated the role of natural barriers on predator-prey interactions, and developed models of shrimp migration specific to a particular river network. I did not detect an effect of anthropogenic changes to the landscape on fish and shrimp species distributions in two watersheds that drain the Luquillo Experimental Forest. These communities were primarily affected by the position of natural barriers: predatory fish distributions were limited by waterfalls and most shrimp species were found upstream from fish barriers. Thus, steep terrain mediated predator-prey interactions between fishes and shrimps, with one shrimp (Atya lanipes) likely avoiding predation by migrating above fish barriers. Lab and field experiments provided the first mechanistic evidence for landscape-level predator-avoidance behavior by A. lanipes. Both postlarval and adult shrimp avoided the scent of three predatory fish species in a y-maze fluvarium. In natural streams above fish barriers, adult A. lanipes did not respond to the addition of fish scent, but adult abundances did decline when fish were added to in-stream cages. To integrate our ideas about how shrimp behaviors scale up to observed adult A. lanipes distributions across the landscape, we developed a set of nested models specific to a particular river network. The best models parameterized branch choice at nodes within the river network to be heavily weighted toward particular mid-elevation tributaries above fish barriers. Our models indicated that distance traveled above and below fish barriers had little effect on adult distributions. Because the number of migrants decreases with distance upstream, the latter result was likely an artifact of the model. In montane river systems with migratory fauna, scientists would benefit by creatively designing new experiments and models that incorporate river network structure, as this is the template upon which all processes occur.

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