Rivers are impacted by multiple stressors that can interact to create synergistic, additive or antagonistic effects, but experimental studies on fish encompassing more than one stressor are seldom found. Thus, there is the need to study stressors through multifactorial approaches that analyse the impact of fish exposure to multiple stressors and evaluate fish sensitivity to stressor combinations. Some of the most common impacts to Mediterranean rivers are of two natures: i) water abstraction and ii) diffuse pollution. Therefore, the present study aims at studying the responses of potamodromous fish facing combinations of: 1) a primary stressor (two levels of connectivity reduction due to water scarcity), and 2) a secondary stressor (three levels of oxygen depletion due to increase organic load - of anthropogenic nature). Schools of five wild fish from a cyprinid species (Luciobarbus bocagei) were placed in a flume, equipped with see-through sidewalls to allow for behavioural analysis, and subjected to different combinations of the stressors. Results show that at the unconnected level the primary stressor (lack of connectivity) overrode the effect of the secondary stressor (oxygen depletion), but when connectivity existed oxygen depletion caused a reduction of fish movements with decreasing oxygen concentrations. This multifactorial study contributes to improved prediction of fish responses upon actual or projected pressure scenarios.
Keywords: Mediterranean systems; Multifactorial experiments; Multiple stressors; Oxygen depletion; Potamodromous fish; Water abstraction.
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