Two software programs (SIFIM and FishPop) allow for a simulation of environmental and anthropogenic effects on fish communities and fish populations.
This learning activity offers three levels of complexity:
- Exploration of the causal physical effects of human pressures on river systems, including a dual choice test on the direction of physical effects (increasing, decreasing) ending with a personalized “Certificate of Achievement” (SIFIM I).
- Exploration of the biological effects associated with the physical changes in the river system – here test questions need to be formulated by the teacher for evaluating the learning outcome (SIFIM II).
- Expert level simulation of multiple impacts on fish populations in river systems using an individual based simulation program (FishPop).
SIFIM (Simplified fish-pressure modelling tool) is a self-contained, web-based online learning environment to support the basic causal understanding of typical effects of human activities on river ecosystems. The focus of SIFIM is on the causal effects of so called ‘hydromorphological pressures’ (connectivity interruptions, impoundment, water abstraction, hydropeaking and impaired river morphology) on river systems and the associated reactions of fish communities and populations with regard to the EU- Water Framework Directive (EU-WFD). As the software is designed to be self-explanatory, it comes only with a short documentation and some ideas for learning routes and evaluation.
FishPop (Virtual fish population simulation model for fragmented river systems) is an individual (age class) based population simulation model. Up to 5 river sections with definable habitats can be virtually stocked with a selected amount of fish of a specific species in different age classes, year-to-year survival rates, fecundity and weight. Randomness of environmental conditions and predation can also be defined (enhanced survival and mortality, floods with negative effects on larvae and eggs). This allows for an exploration of the potential effects of climate factors like an enhanced unpredictability of catastrophic events (floods). Finally, migrations across artificial migration barriers (weirs) can be simulated taking into account the ‘permeability’ of weirs for fish and potential for injuries during downstream migration. The result is the development of a fish population in a fragmented river system over 50 years. A slider within the software allows for an exploration of the result of each individual year.
It depends on the preferences of the user, which fish species and how many sections are used within the simulation. Editable .txt files allow for a user based definition of age class based parameters of virtually all types of fish species. One could also start only with one section, and exploring the development of a population in a given habitat, under natural environmental variability. In a next step, more complexity can be added to the simulation, limiting habitats, changing climate factors or adding predation. Finally, FishPop allows for simulating multiple river sections (up to 5) and the effect of 4 connectivity interruptions on population development.
FishPop comes with a comprehensive documentation of the software design, and the possible user interactions. However, it does not contain any basics on population ecology. Therefore, it makes sense to combine the use of FishPop with a basic introduction in population ecology.
The development of both simulation tools required strong domain expertise in fish ecology, and special programming skills.
Suitable for use in:
- SIFIM: seminars, practica, exercises, lectures
- FishPop: seminars, practica, exercise
Previous knowledge/dependence on other resources:
- SIFIM: no prior knowledge required
- FishPop: requires special knowledge not provided in other resources
Group size/optimal number of students:
- FishPop: > 10 students
- SIFIM: independent of the number of students
Time required (including time needed by students outside of the course):
- SIFIM 1-2 hours
- FishPop - 1 semester
Preparation efforts needed for (non-specialized) lecturers:
- SIFIM – low
- FishPop - high