1 Brazilian Journal of Biology 2008 Vol: 68(4):. DOI: 10.1590/S1519-69842008000500019

Dams and the fish fauna of the Neotropical region: impacts and management related to diversity and fisheries

Reservoirs have been built in almost all of the hydrographic basins of Brazil. Their purposes include water supply for cities, irrigation and mainly, generation of electricity. There are more than 700 large dams and associated reservoirs in the large rivers of the country. These reservoirs favor local and regional economic development, but they also bring serious and irreversible alterations in the natural hydrologic regime of rivers, affecting habitat quality and the dynamics of the biota. In the impounded area, the main impact is the change from lotic to lentic water, which influences aquatic fauna, including fishes. Impacts of reservoirs present relevant spatiotemporal variations. Immediately after reservoir formation, fish species richness usually increases due to incorporation of surrounding habitats, but richness decreases as reservoirs age. However, impacts downstream of dams appear to be similar or stronger than those that occur within the reservoir. Dams promote discharge control, altering the seasonal cycles of floods. These effects are augmented when dams are constructed in cascades. Therefore, dams profoundly influence composition and structure of fish assemblages. Most affected species are the rheophilics and long distance migratory that require distinct habitats to fulfill their life cycles. Populations of migratory species may collapse or even disappear in intensely regulated stretches. Management actions taken to minimize impacts of dams in Brazil historically considered construction of fish passages, fishery control and stocking. The results of these actions are questionable and/or with clear failures. In this paper, we give emphasis to the Paraná River basin, the most affected by dams in Brazil. We describe some patterns in the alteration and decline in fish diversity in areas influenced by dams. We also discuss negative consequences in the fishery and ecosystems functioning. Finally, we argue the relevance and the success of the management actions taken and present some suggestions to improve conservation of the ichthyofauna in South American basins influenced by dams.

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