Aim We quantify biotic homogenization of fish fauna caused by the elimination of a natural barrier between two freshwater ecoregions. We also evaluated fish introductions by different mechanisms such as aquaculture, angling and the aquarium trade in the homogenization of fish assemblages. The relative importance of native extinctions in the homogenization process was assessed by simulating the exclusion of threatened species in the data set.
Location Paraná River, south-eastern South America.
Methods A fish species list of the Parana River Basin was organized in a subset of species distributions, according to pre- and post-introductions caused by the elimination of the natural barrier and by other mechanisms. Biotic homogenization was verified by the use of Jaccard’s and Bray–Curtis’s coefficients, Whittaker’s beta diversity index, non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis (NMDS) and nonparametric tests.
Results For all subsets of species distributions, we observed an increase in the number of non-native species in common related to the introductions. Between 40 and 52% of the species currently present in the Upper Paraná Basin dispersed upstream from the Lower Paraná after the construction of Itaipu Dam, including at least 1 class, 2 orders, 4 families and 16 genera of fish. Jaccard’s coefficient between the Upper and Lower Parana River increased by 6–7.5% only considering the Itaipu Dam influence and 10.5% considering all mechanisms of fish introductions. More than 50% of the increase in similarity was caused by the elimination of the barrier. Our results indicated functional homogenization related to large-bodied Siluriformes (catfish).
Main conclusions Itaipu Lake flooded a natural barrier and allowed hydrologic connectivity between the Upper and Lower Paraná River, and many fishes of the lower part of the river were able to colonize the upper stretches. The homogenization of the two assemblages between these adjacent aquatic regions was an unpredicted result of hydropower implementation. Introductions by dam can also shift longitudinal and latitudinal body size patterns (i.e. Bergmann's rule).