Reservoir age related to loss of native species diversity and increase in non-natives over time

Temporal changes in fish diversity in lotic and lentic environments along a reservoir cascade


  1. Long‐term modifications in hydrological conditions due to river damming result in varied effects on fish diversity, which can be stronger in a reservoir cascade. Therefore, we assessed changes in fish diversity over a 28‐year period, in a series of reservoirs along the Araguari River Basin, a Neotropical drainage in Brazil, in both lentic environments (reservoirs) and the lotic stretches between them.
  2. We used linear mixed models to assess long‐term changes in fish diversity. Diversity was measured as α diversity (fish species richness) and β diversity (Jaccard's and Raup–Crick's dissimilarity index). Beta diversity was then partitioned into turnover (species replacement) and nestedness (species loss). To understand fish species replacement along the cascade, we modelled turnover with four covariates: age, richness of native and non‐native fish species, and longitudinal position of sampling site along the cascade.
  3. The reduction of total richness and the increase in non‐native richness were related to reservoir age. These effects were similar in both lotic and lentic environments, with no significant difference between them. We also observed a decrease in native fish richness over time, with a slight tendency for lentic environments to lose more species than lotic environments.
  4. Dissimilarity in fish assemblage increased over time and β Raup–Crick results corroborated those derived from β Jaccard, yielding similar significant temporal trends. Changes in fish species composition occurred predominantly due to turnover, compared to nestedness. We observed a greater species loss in reservoirs, suggesting that the transformation from a lotic environment into a lentic had greater impact on fish assemblages than the flow regulation of the lotic stretches downstream of the dams. Our results suggest that species replacement can be explained mainly by the increase of non‐native fish richness, followed by the longitudinal position along the cascade in an upstream–downstream direction, and reservoir age.
  5. This study reveals that, even after 2 decades of monitoring, we still observe important changes in fish assemblages, demonstrating the importance of long‐term monitoring to assess biodiversity. Our findings reinforce the importance of long‐term fish monitoring schemes for the investigation of the effects of non‐native fish species on native fish assemblages.

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