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Braz J Biol. 2011 Aug;71(3):639-51.

Effects of flow reduction and spillways on the composition and structure of benthic macroinvertebrate communities in a Brazilian river reach.

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Laboratório de Ecologia de Bentos, Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais – UFMG,Pampulha, CP 486, CEP 30161-970, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.


Dams are a major threat to aquatic biological diversity. By altering the natural flow of rivers, dams modify fluvial habitats, making them unsuitable for the growth and reproduction of many aquatic species. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of a reduced flow reach (RFR) on benthic macroinvertebrate communities. Benthic macroinvertebrates were collected at six sites downstream of the Amador Aguiar Power Plant I before (lotic phase) and after (semi-lentic phase) Araguari River mean flow was reduced from 346 to 7 m³.s⁻¹. Changes in macroinvertebrates richness, diversity and total biomass were not observed. Ablabesmyia, Tanytarsus (Chironomidae, Diptera), Leptoceridae and Polycentropodidae (Trichoptera) densities significantly increased the first year after flow reduction and the construction of spillways (t-test; p < 0.05). An analysis of similarity (ANOSIM) showed statistical differences in taxonomical composition despite considerable overlap in communities between the lotic and semi-lentic phases (R = 0.3; p < 0.01). In both phases, the macroinvertebrates were characterised by the dominance of groups tolerant to human disturbance (e.g., Chironomidae, Ceratopogonidae and Oligochaeta) and by the presence of the alien bivalve species Corbicula fluminea (Veneroidae), suggesting that the river was already degraded before the hydraulic modifications. Since the 1980s, the Araguari River has been continuously subjected to human pressures (e.g., cascade dams, urbanization and replacement of native vegetation by pasture and crops). These activities have led to impoverishment of biological communities and have consequently altered the ecosystem.

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