Selectivity of fish ladders: a bottleneck in Neotropical fish movement
Journal or Book Title
Although dozens of fish ladders have been constructed at dams of Brazilian reservoirs, there are few studies evaluating their efficiency as a tool for the conservation of Neotropical ichthyofauna, especially for migratory species. Therefore, the present study evaluated the selectivity of the species that entered and ascended the fish ladder located next to Lajeado Dam (Luis Eduardo Magalhães Hydroelectric Power Plant) on the Tocantins River. Samples were taken monthly from November, 2002 through October, 2003, in the resting pools of the ladder, using cast nets, and in the downstream stretch, using gillnets. The selectivity of the ladder in attracting fish was evaluated by comparing the occurrence, relative abundance, dominance and the congruence of abundance ranks of migratory and non–migratory species in the ladder and in the stretch of river immediately downstream. Species richness and fish abundance in the resting pools were used to evaluate selectivity along the ladder. The effects on selectivity by temporal variations in water level downriver and maximum flow velocity in the fish ladder were also analyzed. Out of the 130 species recorded downriver, 62.3% were caught in the ladder, and migratory species were clearly favored. However, more than 2/3 of the catch belonged to only three species (Rhaphiodon vulpinus, Psectrogaster amazonica and Oxydoras niger). Although the majority of the species that entered the ladder were able to reach its top, there was a sharp reduction in abundance of individuals towards the top. Temporal variations in the water level below the dam influenced richness and abundance of fish concentrated downstream and in the ladder, with lower values during periods of low water. In the ladder, a maximum flow velocity of 2.3 m/s, although also selective, proved to be more appropriate for fish ascension than a velocity of 2.8 m/s. It was concluded that the entry and ascension of the fish in the ladder were not congruent with their proportions in the downriver stretch: fish samples in the ladder were clearly dominated by a few species, including some that do not need to be translocated. Thus, selectivity constitutes an important bottleneck to initiatives for translocating fish aimed at conserving their stocks or biodiversity. It is urgent to review the decision–making process for the construction of fish passages and to evaluate the functioning of those already operating.