Assessing the short-term response of fish assemblages to damming of an Amazonian river

The enormous biodiversity of tropical freshwater combined with a considerable increase in the construction of reservoirs urges to understand the ecological effects caused by damming. Using rarely available data obtained before (one year) and after (four years) the filling of a hydroelectric plant on the Teles Pires River (Amazon River basin), the effects on abundance, biomass, and diversity of the fish assemblage were evaluated using two complementary approaches: a BACI (before-after-control-impact) design with mixed models and analyses of covariance. Significant Before-After × Control-Impact interactions in abundance, biomass, and species richness were observed, with decreases of abundance and species richness and more stable biomass after filling. Some abundant species, such as Jupiaba polylepis, Jupiaba acanthogaster, Knodus cf. heteresthes, and Moenkhausia lepidura among others, declined in abundance or disappeared from the impact sites. However, temporal and particularly spatial variation independent of damming explained more variation in all the response variables analyzed, including species composition, and analyses of covariance demonstrated general negative trends irrespective of damming. This study illustrates the usefulness of BACI designs to assess the effects of damming but also that other statistical approaches are complementary, given the difficulty of identifying control sites and the short length of most ecological time series. The results also suggest that preserving tributaries upstream of reservoirs and natural regimes of spatial and temporal environmental variation might help to mitigate the impacts of damming in tropical ecosystems ​
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