Discontinuous structure in landscapes may cause discontinuous, aggregated species body-mass patterns, reflecting the scales of structure available to animal communities within a landscape. Empirical analyses have shown that the location of species within body mass aggregations, which reflect this scale-specific organization, is non-random with regard to several ecological phenomena, including species extinctions. The propensity of declining species to have body masses proximate to discontinuities suggests that transition zones between scaling regimes ultimately decreases the ecological fitness for some species. We test this proposition using vulnerable and unthreatened fish species in Mediterranean streams with differing levels of human impact. We show that the proximity to discontinuities in body mass aggregations (“distance-to-edge”) of more vs. less fit individuals within vulnerable and unthreatened populations differs. Specifically, regression analysis between the scaled mass index, a proxy of animal fitness, and distance-to-edge reveals negative and positive relationships for vulnerable and unthreatened species, respectively. That is, fitness is higher close to discontinuities in vulnerable populations and toward the center of body mass aggregation groups in unthreatened populations. Our results demonstrate the suitability of the discontinuity framework for scrutinizing non-random patterns of environmental impact in populations. Further exploration of the usefulness of this method across other ecosystems and organism groups is warranted.
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