Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 235-250

First online:

Fish Communities in Central Amazonian White- and Blackwater Floodplains

  • Ulrich Saint-PaulAffiliated withCenter for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT)
  • , Jansen ZuanonAffiliated withInstituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (INPA)
  • , Marle A. Villacorta CorreaAffiliated withInstituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (INPA)
  • , Marcelo GarcíaAffiliated withUniversidade do Amazonas (UFA), DB/ICB
  • , Nidia Noemi FabréAffiliated withUniversidade do Amazonas (UFA), DB/ICB
  • , Uta BergerAffiliated withCenter for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT)
  • , Wolfgang J. JunkAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institut für Limnologie

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In Amazonian floodplains, the flood cycle of the river is becoming the dominant seasonal factor, and fish communities are found to fluctuate greatly over the year. During inundation, fish migrate into floodplain forests to feed on fruits and seeds, in an area more than 300 000 km2 in size. To document patterns of species diversity, distribution, abundance and temporal dynamics and in order to describe the ecological importance of the inundated forest, floodplain fish were captured using variously sized gill nets in white and black water areas inside and outside the floodplain forests during low, rising, high and falling water level in 1990 and 1991. Dominance varies to some extent in white water between floodplain forest (0.06) and open water (0.11) while it is unchanged in black water (0.04). Black water fish communities were more diverse. Most abundant among white water fish were Liposarcus pardalis, Pygocentrus nattereri, and Pellona flavipinnis, for example, or Plagioscion squamsissimus, Serrasalmus rhombeus, and Serrasalmus manueli in black water. Among the most abundant white water fish, Colossoma macropomum, Mylossoma duriventre and Osteoglossum bicirrhosum occurred almost exclusively in inundated forests. Of the black water species there were a large number of species which were captured only in inundated forest, such as Geophagus cf. altifrons, Hoplias malabaricus, Osteoglossum bicirrhosum and Uaru amphiacanthoides. Catches varied with sample site, water level and direction of water level change. The average CPUE in white and black water was 190 and 41 g fish m−2 and day, respectively, with maximum yields at low water and minimum yields at high water. Comparing rising and falling water levels, a significantly higher quantity of fishes was captured at falling water level. In black water, fish catches from the floodplain forest exceeded the open water catch by 183 to 550%, depending on season. Differences in respect of white water are smaller (106–281%). Fish communities in the area under investigation seem to be stochastically assembled, with significant differences between white and black water only. Many fishes move into the floodplain forest not only to feed but probably also for other reasons – to seek shelter, for example.

Amazonia fisheries abundance floodplain igapó várzea inundated forest community structure