Evaluating the effectiveness of freshwater fishes as bio-indicators for urban impacts in the Crocodile (West) catchment, South Africa
Keywords:aquatic ecosystems, integrity, Fish Response Assessment Index (FRAI), species occurrence, stressor-response curves
Urbanisation in South Africa has resulted in the degradation of aquatic ecosystems across a rural-to-urban gradient; impacting the availability of clean water. Biological organisms, including fish assemblages, have been used as indicators of environmental change, as part of monitoring programmes designed to protect and improve aquatic ecosystem conditions. However, the effectiveness of individual freshwater fish species as bio-indicators for urban impacts has not yet been evaluated. This study investigated the occurrence of freshwater fish species across three urban gradients within the upper Crocodile River sub-management area as potential bio-indicators. Having collected presence and absence data, five native fish species were determined to be widespread. Their effectiveness as bio-indicators for six environmental drivers, identified through principle component analysis, was assessed using species stressor-response curves derived from logistic regression analysis. Of the five species, the largescale yellowfish (Labeobarbus marequensis) and stargazer catfish (Amphilius uranoscopus) showed potential to be effective bio-indicators for urban impacts on aquatic water quality and instream habitat. These taxa, as effective urban bio-indicators, have the potential to improve the efficiency of urban river health assessments through reducing data gathering and staff training requirements.
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