Variability in population traits of a sentinel Iberian fish in a highly modified Mediterranean-type river.
Human pressures on water resources have been suggested as a driver of biological traits that induce changes in native fish populations. This study highlighted the interplay between environmental stress factors, mostly related to flow regulation, and the longitudinal river gradient in biological traits such as the growth, size structure and somatic condition of a sentinel fish, Luciobarbus sclateri. We found an increase in size-related metrics and somatic condition at population levels associated with downstream reaches, although fragmentation and habitat alteration, flow regime alteration and the abundance of non-native fish were also significantly involved in their variability. Age-related parameters and growth were only explained by flow regime alterations and the abundance of non-native fish species. The high plasticity observed in L. sclateri population traits suggests that this is a key factor in the species adaptability to resist in a strongly altered Mediterranean river basin. However, the interplay of multiple stressors plays an important role in fish population dynamics and could induce complex responses that may be essential for long-term monitoring in sentinel species.