Human and environmental influences on the distribution and abundance of arapaima in river floodplains of the Lower Amazon

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Virginia Tech


Understanding the factors influencing the abundance and distribution of tropical floodplain fishes is an important component of fisheries management plans to support future sustainable resource use. This thesis uses a multi-scale approach to understand the habitat factors controlling the distribution and abundance of arapaima (Arapaima spp.) in river floodplains of the lower Amazon River, near the municipality of Santarém, Para State, Brazil. In chapter 1, a study of eight environmental variables in 13 dry season floodplain lakes demonstrates that lake depth, relative depth, conductivity, and transparency were significantly related to the probability of arapaima presence at individual locations within lakes. Further, the study revealed that smaller arapaima were more likely to be found near macrophyte coverage than in open water locations. In chapter 2, a landscape scale approach was used to examine the interactions between management systems, landscape habitat coverage, and spatial arrangement on arapaima population sizes in 73 floodplain lakes. Results showed that all three influences were important in explaining variability in arapaima abundances. Management and habitat variables contributed equally in controlling arapaima abundances. Both had strong patterns of spatial arrangement and overlapped significantly, suggesting that analysis of either management systems or landscape habitats without the other would lead to overestimations of the strength of their influence. Findings from both chapters support the notion that future sustainable use of arapaima populations requires a dualistic approach combining habitat conservation with fisheries management techniques enacted at a local scale.



arapaima, river floodplain, social ecological systems, habitat use