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A ‘Behaviorscape’ Perspective on Stream Fish Ecology and Conservation: Linking Fish Behavior to Riverscapes

Aug 7, 2014


Landscape ecology (and its application to rivers and streams: riverine landscapes or riverscapes) provides an expansive depiction of patterns of physical and biological phenomena, yet mechanisms driving those patterns are rarely identified. Behavioral ecology aims to elucidate mechanisms of organisms’ response to their environment, but often lacks the context of natural conditions and the surrounding landscape or riverscape. Bringing together the relative strengths of these two fields—context in the case of riverscapes and mechanism in the case of behavioral ecology—can provide fisheries managers and conservation biologists with improved predictions of fish response to anthropogenic impacts such as habitat degradation, landscape fragmentation, and climate change. Existing research on fish behavior incorporating a riverscape perspective includes the study of fish migration and dispersal, habitat selection, and reproduction and life history strategies. The merging of these disciplines is termed ‘behaviorscapes’ and a program of research would adhere to four principles: (1) study fish populations or communities in a natural setting, (2) account for landscape and riverscape context, (3) incorporate a refined understanding of fish behavior, and (4) forge linkages between individual behavior and population or community demographics. Several potential directions for future research exist, including developing or improving technologies to map internal heterogeneity of rivers; making explicit links between that heterogeneity and fish behavior through observations or experiments; and employing an iterative approach to using ecological knowledge, a priori hypotheses, and precise spatial analysis to bridge the pattern-process divide.


Seth White, Guillermo Giannico, and Hiram Li


White, S.M., G. Giannico, and H. Li. 2014. A ‘behaviorscape’ perspective on stream fish ecology and conservation: linking fish behavior to riverscapes. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water 1(4):385–400. Online at



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Journal Article