SUMMARY 1. There is little information on the impacts of deforestation on the fish fauna in neotropical streams, and on parameters influencing species diversity and community structure of fish. We analysed these aspects in 12 stream sites in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The stream sites represented a large gradient in canopy cover and were located in an area of fragmented forest. While some streams had been deforested, they had not suffered gross degradation of the habitat.
2. The species richness of stream fish was not related to deforestation. Local fish diversity (Fisher's Alpha) was positively related to the surface area of stream pools (m2). Beta diversity was higher among forested than deforested sites, indicating greater heterogeneity in species composition among forested than deforested sites. The percentage of rare species was positively correlated with canopy cover.
3. Total fish density increased with deforestation, and the fish community changed from dominance by omnivorous and insectivorous Characiformes at forested sites to dominance of periphyton-feeding loricariids at deforested sites.
4. Multidimensional statistical analysis of fish community structure showed that six environmental variables (the area of stream bottom covered by leaves, relative pool area, particulate organic matter, mean depth, conductivity and suspended solids) were related to the ordination axes. The presence of leaves, which was strongly correlated to canopy cover, was the variable most closely related to fish community structure, while relative pool area was the second strongest variable. Thus, fish community structure was strongly affected by deforestation.
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