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The effects of river-level oscillations on the macroinvertebrate community in a river–floodplain system

Abstract

Extreme climatic events, such as flooding and drought, can abruptly modify the amplitude of the river level of a river, promoting new environmental conditions and impacting aquatic communities. Furthermore, an increasing frequency of extreme droughts in dammed rivers is expected because dams homogenize the flood pulse and decrease the river level. In this study, we evaluated the effects of extreme river-level oscillations on the benthic macroinvertebrate communities in a floodplain river. We analysed 47 years of river-level data and 17 years of benthic macroinvertebrate data. Our findings indicated that (1) extreme river-level oscillations promoted environmental conditions that were distinct from the regular oscillation; moreover, environmental characteristics were more heterogeneous in extreme oscillations than regular oscillations; (2) extreme oscillations were associated with a decreased richness, density, and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates, promoting the dominance of tolerant taxa. Furthermore, in the studied river, a large hydroelectric power plant was built 19 years ago, which (3) decreased the river-level downstream, accentuating the occurrence of extreme drought, which has become more common after damming. We emphasize the importance of long-term biological monitoring considering the more frequent occurrence of extreme river-level oscillations in response to factors such as dam building and climate change.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Brazilian Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). This research was carried out as part of the Long Term Ecological Research Project (LTER). MTB thanks the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Educational Personnel (CAPES) for the Ph.D. scholarship. RPM thanks CNPq for the productivity grant.

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DAM, JES, and RPM developed the main hypotheses and ideas. DAM and MTB ran the analyses. DAM and JES wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors provided substantial improvements on the manuscript.

Correspondence to Dieison André Moi.

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Moi, D.A., Ernandes-Silva, J., Baumgartner, M.T. et al. The effects of river-level oscillations on the macroinvertebrate community in a river–floodplain system. Limnology (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10201-019-00605-y

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Biological monitoring
  • Conservation
  • Climate change
  • Extreme climate