Elevational Gradients in Fish Diversity in the Himalaya: Water Discharge Is the Key Driver of Distribution PatternsReport as inadecuate

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Studying diversity and distribution patterns of species along elevational gradients and understanding drivers behind these patterns is central to macroecology and conservation biology. A number of studies on biogeographic gradients are available for terrestrial ecosystems, but freshwater ecosystems remain largely neglected. In particular, we know very little about the species richness gradients and their drivers in the Himalaya, a global biodiversity hotspot.

Methodology-Principal Findings

We collated taxonomic and distribution data of fish species from 16 freshwater Himalayan rivers and carried out empirical studies on environmental drivers and fish diversity and distribution in the Teesta river Eastern Himalaya. We examined patterns of fish species richness along the Himalayan elevational gradients 50–3800 m and sought to understand the drivers behind the emerging patterns. We used generalized linear models GLM and generalized additive models GAM to examine the richness patterns; GLM was used to investigate relationship between fish species richness and various environmental variables. Regression modelling involved stepwise procedures, including elimination of collinear variables, best model selection, based on the least Akaike’s information criterion AIC and the highest percentage of deviance explained D2. This maiden study on the Himalayan fishes revealed that total and non-endemic fish species richness monotonously decrease with increasing elevation, while endemics peaked around mid elevations 700–1500 m. The best explanatory model synthetic model indicated that water discharge is the best predictor of fish species richness patterns in the Himalayan rivers.


This study, carried out along one of the longest bioclimatic elevation gradients of the world, lends support to Rapoport’s elevational rule as opposed to mid domain effect hypothesis. We propose a species-discharge model and contradict species-area model in predicting fish species richness. We suggest that drivers of richness gradients in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are likely to be different. These studies are crucial in context of the impacts of unprecedented on-going river regulation on fish diversity and distribution in the Himalaya.

Author: Jay P. Bhatt, Kumar Manish, Maharaj K. Pandit

Source: http://plos.srce.hr/


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