Relationships between Fish and Benthic Communities: A Call for More Experiments in the Context of Adaptive Management

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Aquatic
Montana State University
systems ecology
Food web approach
Adaptive Management Wyatt Cross Montana State University Bozeman Montana
adaptive management
Volume 16, No. 4

Relationships between fish and benthic communities:  
a call for more experiments in the context of  

Adaptive management
Wyatt Cross,  Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717
Fish are important components of most freshwater ecosystems and can interact strongly 
with their prey, potentially driving changes in system structure and function. Less appreciated, 
however, is the reciprocal role of prey availability and quality in limiting and/or structuring 
fish communities. Understanding both sides of these interactions is critical for predicting 
changes to aquatic ecosystems as a result of species invasions, extinctions, and well-
intentioned management practices. I will focus on fish-benthos relationships in streams and 
rivers with emphasis on salmonid-invertebrate interactions. First, I will argue that despite a 
large literature in this area, generalizations remain elusive because of broad differences in 
scale and study design. Next, I will present a food web approach (and case study from the 
Grand Canyon) that can help elucidate key pathways of interaction between fishes and their 

prey. Finally, I will discuss the critical role of ecosystem experiments in management and 
argue that exciting opportunities abound in Montana for leading the way in science-based 
adaptive management of streams and rivers.