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Dynamism in the upstream invasion edge of a freshwater fish exposes range boundary constraints


Studying the dynamics of species’ borders can provide insight into the mechanisms limiting or promoting range expansion in response to environmental change. In the John Day River, Oregon (USA), rising stream temperatures are facilitating the upstream expansion of invasive smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu. Here, where smallmouth bass occupy the upstream limit of its thermal tolerance, we explore population structure and seasonal movement patterns to elucidate the environmental conditions and individual traits that define front edge (where individuals reside year-round) and leading edge (where individuals colonize, but may not establish) limits to its upstream distribution. Reporting on a multi-year, spatially extensive riverscape survey, our results show dramatic ebbs and flows of seasonal occupancies due to individual movement with an overall trend of upstream expansion. We revealed distinct front and leading edge invasion extents, each constrained by different ecological conditions. The front edge is largely constrained by the ability for juveniles to survive an overwinter starvation period, whereas the leading edge is associated with adult growth potential and seasonal hydrological conditions. We also found key morphological traits associated with more mobile individuals. By providing mechanistic insight into the factors that promote or limit range expansion of an invasive riverine species, our study enhances the ability to predict future range shifts and provides critical information to managers tasked with restricting further expansion.

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We thank David Lawrence for providing temperature and bass distribution data from 2009 to 2010, Lucinda Morrow from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for conducting age analysis on our smallmouth bass scales, Kasey Bliesner from Middle Fork John Day Intensively Monitored Watershed and Dolly Robison from US Forest Service for providing temperature data, and Michelle Louie, Chris Bare, Karl Veggerby, Emily Davis, Rebekah Stiling, Amy Edwards, Lauren Kuehne, Will Chen, Rachel Lee, Jamie Thompson, Bryan Donahue, Jared Frantzich, Hunter Simpson, Alicia Godersky, and Tim Unterwegner for field assistance. Particular appreciation goes to all the landowners of the NFJDR for access to their land and endless support throughout the years. We thank Brian Shuter, Simon Gillings, and one anonymous reviewer for providing valuable suggestions that improved the manuscript. Funding support was provided by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program to ESR and the University of Washington H. Mason Keeler Endowed Professorship awarded to JDO.

Author contribution statement

ESR and JDO conceived and formulated the project questions. ESR conducted the fieldwork and data analysis. ESR and JDO wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Erika S. Rubenson.

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Communicated by Jessica Sanchez.

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Rubenson, E.S., Olden, J.D. Dynamism in the upstream invasion edge of a freshwater fish exposes range boundary constraints. Oecologia 184, 453–467 (2017).

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  • Climate change
  • Secondary spread
  • Range dynamics
  • Connectivity
  • Morphology