Spatio-temporal scaling of biodiversity and the species-time relationship in a stream fish assemblage

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1. The increase of species richness with the area of the habitat sampled, that is the species-area relationship, and its temporal analogue, the species-time relationship (STR), are among the few general laws in ecology with strong conservation implications. However, these two scale-dependent phenomena have rarely been considered together in biodiversity assessment, especially in freshwater systems.2. We examined how the spatial scale of sampling influences STRs for a Central-European stream fish assemblage (second-order Bernecei stream, Hungary) using field survey data in two simulation-based experiments.3. In experiment one, we examined how increasing the number of channel units, such as riffles and pools (13 altogether), and the number of field surveys involved in the analyses (12 sampling occasions during 3 years), influence species richness. Complete nested curves were constructed to quantify how many species one observes in the community on average for a given number of sampling occasions at a given spatial scale.4. In experiment two, we examined STRs for the Bernecei fish assemblage from a landscape perspective. Here, we evaluated a 10-year reach level data set (2000-09) for the Bernecei stream and its recipient watercourse (third-order Kemence stream) to complement results on experiment one and to explore the mechanisms behind the observed patterns in more detail.5. Experiment one indicated the strong influence of the spatial scale of sampling on the accumulation of species richness, although time clearly had an additional effect. The simulation methodology advocated here helped to estimate the number of species in a diverse combination of spatial and temporal scale and, therefore, to determine how different scale combinations influence sampling sufficiency.6. Experiment two revealed differences in STRs between the upstream (Bernecei) and downstream (Kemence) sites, with steeper curves for the downstream site. Equations of STR curves were within the range observed in other studies, predominantly from terrestrial systems. Assemblage composition data suggested that extinction-colonisation dynamics of rare, non-resident (i.e. satellite) species influenced patterns in STRs.7. Our results highlight that the determination of species richness can benefit from the joint consideration of spatial and temporal scales in biodiversity inventory surveys. Additionally, we reveal how our randomisation-based methodology may help to quantify the scale dependency of diversity components (α, β, γ) in both space and time, which have critical importance in the applied context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2391-2400
Number of pages10
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2010



  • Biodiversity monitoring
  • Diversity partitioning
  • Scale
  • Species richness
  • Species-time-area relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

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