Spatial metrics and methods for riverscapes: quantifying variability in riverine fish habitat patterns

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsLe Pichon, C, Gorges, G, Baudry, J, Goreaud, F, Boët, P
Start Page512
Date Published2008
Mots-clésbarbus barbus, GIS mapping, habitat restoration, proximity index, spatial metrics

Defining the optimal configuration of all habitats required during a life cycle, called vital habitat, is a necessary step for effective management of riverine fishes and restoration of river habitats. Landscape ecology provides many metrics and methods to study the composition and configuration of habitats, but they need to be adapted for fishes in river environments or riverscapes. For example, hydrographic distance seems more appropriate than Euclidean distance for measuring distances between vital habitats in riverscapes. We adapted some metrics to assess habitats patterns of a threatened cyprinid species (Barbus barbus) for natural and artificial riverscapes of the Seine river, France. Composition metrics provided essential quantification of the relative abundance of the vital habitats, whereas configuration metrics were relevant to quantify their spatial arrangement and spatial relationships. Nearest-neighbor hydrographic distance was useful to evaluate the influence of flow variability in the natural riverscape, but was not relevant to discriminate the artificial riverscape from the natural one. Conversely, a proximity index revealed high fragmentation in the artificial riverscape. Spatial habitat relationships between feeding and resting habitats, evaluated with a moving window analysis, provided a map of daily activity patches and emphasized the gaps in the biological continuity of the riverscape. The spatial metrics and methods we adapted to the particularities of the Seine river allowed us to detect natural and artificial variability in fish habitat patterns. They should help in evaluating impacts of habitat alteration and isolation and prioritize preservation and restoration policies in human-impacted rivers.