Fish colonization of artificial reefs in a large Neotropical reservoir: material type and successional changes

Artificial reefs have barely been used in Neotropical reservoirs (about five studies in three reservoirs), despite their potential as a fishery management tool to create new habitats and also to understand fish ecology. We experimentally assessed how reef material (ceramic, concrete, and PVC) and time modulated fish colonization of artificial reefs deployed in Itaipu Reservoir, a large reservoir of the mainstem Parana´ River, Brazil. Fish richness, abundance, and biomass were significantly greater in the reef treatments than at control sites. Among the experimental reefs, ceramic followed by the concrete treatments were the materials most effectively colonized, harboring the majority of the 13 fish species recorded. Although dependent on material type, many of the regularities of ecological successions were also observed in the artificial reefs, including decelerating increases in species richness, abundance, mean individual size, and species loss rates with time and decelerating decreases of species gain and turnover rates. Species composition also varied with material type and time, together with suites of life history traits: more equilibrium species (i.e., fishes of intermediate size that often exhibit parental care and produce fewer but larger offspring) of the Winemiller-Rose model of fish life histories prevailed in later successional stages. Overall, our study suggests that experimental reefs are a promising tool to understand ecological succession of fish assemblages, particularly in tropical ecosystems given their high species richness and low seasonality ​
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