Deforesting the riverscape: The effects of wood on fish diversity in a Venezuelan piedmont stream
While deforestation of tropical ecosystems has been shown to have significant impacts on terrestrial habitats, its effects on aquatic habitats are poorly studied. Deforestation dramatically reduces the input of woody debris to streams, and given the importance of large woody debris to fish communities in temperate streams, this might be one mechanism by which logging could affect aquatic ecosystems in the tropics. To examine the effects of large woody debris on the diverse fish assemblage of a tropical stream, we surveyed pools with and without wood at Rio Las Marias, Venezuela. Pools containing wood contained greater numbers of individuals and more species of fish than pools without wood, and the two types of pools differed in their composition. To test whether these results were due to the presence of woody debris, we conducted an experimental wood addition. Pools to which wood was added showed marked increases in both fish abundance and species richness relative to wood-free pools, and the composition of the fish assemblage in experimental pools approached that of pools with naturally occurring woody debris. These results demonstrate that large woody debris plays a major role in structuring fish communities in tropical streams. As a consequence, logging practices that reduce the input of woody debris to tropical streams or directly remove wood from streams could have serious impacts on aquatic habitats, affecting both the diverse fish communities and local economies dependent on stream fisheries. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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