Size-structured habitat selection by arapaima in floodplain lakes of the Lower Amazon


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Human modification of floodplain ecosystems is widespread and a major threat to fish populations, particularly in the tropics where fish diversity and rates of floodplain degradation are high. Identifying measures to minimize the susceptibility of floodplain fishes to habitat modification requires understanding dry-season lake habitat selection for species of conservation concern. This study examined the effects of environmental factors on dry-season floodplain lake habitat selection by arapaima (Arapaima spp.) and determined the extent to which they differed across three size classes. In floodplain lakes of the lower Amazon River, variables were measured at locations representing habitat availability and compared with measurements taken where arapaima were observed during surface breathing. Regression models were used to account for between-lake variation in the presence of arapaima owing to nearby fishing communities. The probability of arapaima presence at each sample location was modelled based on the variables measured. The results indicated that arapaima expressed distinct habitat selection patterns, which differed significantly across size classes. The general pattern observed was that all arapaima were more likely to be found in deeper, more turbid, and higher conductivity locations, whereas smaller arapaima were more likely to remain near dense beds of floating macrophytes. The probability of arapaima presence differed among fishing community territories, reflecting differences in management schemes. Deeper, macrophyte-rich sections of floodplain lakes appear to provide key habitats for arapaima and deserve consideration for becoming priority targets for conservation of the rich diversity of fish species in these systems.



community-based management, fish conservation, habitat degradation, lake depth, macrophyte beds, varzea, water transparency