, Volume 727, Issue 1, pp 19-33
Date: 13 Dec 2013

River of the dammed: longitudinal changes in fish assemblages in response to dams

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Although dams are a common feature on rivers throughout the world, their effects on diversity, composition, and structure of fish assemblages are often unclear. We used electrified benthic trawls and stable isotope analysis of δ13C and δ15N to determine the complex relationships between taxonomic diversity and food web structure of fish assemblages among sites in the free-flowing and impounded reaches of the Allegheny River, Pennsylvania, USA. We found higher gamma and beta fish diversity in the free-flowing section, where Brillouin diversity increased in a downstream direction; however, in the impounded section, we found decreasing diversity downstream. Analysis of similarity and non-metric multi-dimensional scaling revealed longitudinal differences in Bray–Curtis similarity between assemblages from impounded and those from free-flowing sites. Finally, using stable isotope analysis, we showed that fishes in the free-flowing section derived nutrients primarily from benthic sources while fishes in the impounded section had a stronger reliance on pelagic nutrients. Our findings reveal that dams can reduce fish taxonomic diversity, driven primarily by decreases in lotic taxa, while shifting resource use from benthic toward pelagic nutrients. A multi-faceted approach to assess the cumulative effects of dams on aquatic communities is, therefore, recommended.

Handling editor: Katya E. Kovalenko