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Nature Ecology & Evolution

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Understanding how and why local communities change is a pressing task for conservation, especially in freshwater systems. It remains challenging because of the complexity of biodiversity changes, driven by the spatio-temporal heterogeneity of human pressures. Using a compilation of riverine fish community time series (93% between 1993 and 2019) across the Palaearctic, Nearctic and Australasia realms, we assessed how past and recent anthropogenic pressures drive community changes across both space and time. We found evidence of rapid changes in community composition of 30% per decade characterized by important changes in the dominant species, together with a 13% increase in total abundance per decade and a 7% increase in species richness per decade. The spatial heterogeneity in these trends could be traced back to the strength and timing of anthropogenic pressures and was mainly mediated by non-native species introductions. Specifically, we demonstrate that the negative effects of anthropogenic pressures on species richness and total abundance were compensated over time by the establishment of non-native species, a pattern consistent with previously reported biotic homogenization at the global scale. Overall, our study suggests that accounting for the complexity of community changes and its drivers is a crucial step to reach global conservation goals.


First published in Nature Ecology & Evolution 8, 442–453 (2024).

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