Hostname: page-component-7d8f8d645b-dvxft Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-05-30T00:29:29.779Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

A comparison of fish diversity and abundance between nutrient-rich and nutrient-poor lakes in the Upper Amazon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2009

Peter A. Henderson
Animal Behaviour Research Group, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK
William G. R. Crampton
Animal Behaviour Research Group, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK


A comparative study was undertaken of Amazonian fish diversity and density (abundance and biomass) in nutrient poor (blackwater) and richer (whitewater – várzea) habitats in the vicinity of Tefé, Brazil. The whitewater sampling sites, in the floodplain of the Rios Solimōes and Japurá, had high turbidity (Secchi disc 0.03–0.7 m), a conductivity of 64–110 μS cm–1 at 25°C and a pH of 6.6–6.9. The blackwater sites Lagos Amanã, Iamã and Tefé had a low turbidity (Secchi disc 2.0–2.2 m), a conductivity of 7–11 μS cm–1 at 25°C and a pH of 5.3–6.0. The fish communities of open water, floating meadow and forest margin were sampled. Both whitewater and blackwater sites held high diversity fish communities with many species in common. Whitewater habitats were more diverse yielding 108 species, compared with only 68 from blackwater. Fish density within floating meadow was estimated during high water April and May 1994, and low water October 1994 and March 1995. During the high water season fish biomasses in blackwater lakes (31.1 gm–2) were significantly greater than those of either whitewater lakes (13.4 gm–2) or whitewater river channels (3.45 g m–2). At low water, in October, whitewater channels were generally found to hold the highest fish biomass (204 g m–2) although in March a blackwater site yielded the highest fish biomass recorded (285.9 g m–2). The amount of floating meadow habitat within Whitewaters is however much greater than that in blackwaters. It is suggested that blackwaters may offer a stable habitat resulting in a high standing crop. In comparison, variation in conditions such as dissolved oxygen concentration in the whitewater may limit standing crop, but still allow periods of high productivity. Evidence was found for migration of fish from várzea lakes during periods of low oxygen availability. The high diversity and biomass of fish caught in both whitewater and blackwater lakes indicates that water acidity and conductivity are poor predictors of fish diversity and density in tropical floodplain lakes.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Bardach, J. E. 1959. The summer standing crop of fish on a shallow Bermuda reef. Limnology and Oceanography 4:7785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crampton, W. G. R. 1996. Gymnotiform fish: an important component of Amazonian flood plain fish communities. Journal of Fish Biology, in press.Google Scholar
Devol, A. H., Zaret, T. M. & Forsberg, B. R. 1984. Sedimentary organic matter diagenesis and its relation to the carbon budget of tropical floodplain lakes. Verhandlungen der Internationalen Vereinigung Limnologie 22:12991304.Google Scholar
Fittkau, E. J., Irmler, U., Junk, W., Reiss, F. & Schmidt, G. W. 1975. Productivity, biomass and population dynamics in Amazonian water bodies. Pp. 284311 in Golley, F. B. & Medina, E. (eds). Tropical ecological systems: trends in terrestrial and aquatic research. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
Forsberg, B. R., Devol, A. H., Richey, J. E., Martinelli, L. A. & Santos, H. 1988. Factors controlling nutrient concentrations in Amazon floodplain lakes. Limnology and Oceanography 33:4156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gibbons, A. A. 1976. Non-parametric methods for quantitative analysis. Bolt, Rinehart & Winston, New York.Google Scholar
Goulding, M., Carvalho, M. L. & Ferreira, E. G. 1988. Rio Negro, rich life in poor water. SPB Academic Publishing, The Hague.Google Scholar
Hagedorn, M. 1985. Ecology and behaviour of a pulse-type electric fish, Hypopomus occidentals (Gymnotiformes, Hypopomidae), in a fresh-water stream in Panama. Copeia 1985:324335.Google Scholar
Henderson, P. A. & Hamilton, H. F. 1995. Standing crop and distribution of fish in drifting and attached floating meadow within an Upper Amazonian várzea lake. Journal of Fish Biology 47:266276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Henderson, P. A. & Walker, I. 1986. On the leaf litter community of the Amazonian blackwater stream Taruma-Mirim. Journal of Tropical Ecology 2:117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Howard, W. J. & Ayres, J. M. 1995. Mamirauá: a case study of biodiversity conservation involving local people. Commonwealth Forestry Review 74:7679.Google Scholar
Junk, W. J. 1970. Investigations on the ecology and production-biology of the floating meadows (Paspalum – Echinochloetum) on the Middle Amazon. Amazoniana 2:449495.Google Scholar
Junk, W. J. 1973. Investigations on the ecology and production-biology of the floating meadows (PaspalumEchinochloetum) on the Middle Amazon. Amazoniana 4:9102.Google Scholar
Junk, W. J. & Piedade, M. T. F. 1993. Biomass and primary-production of herbaceous plant communities in the Amazon floodplain. Hydrobiology 263:155162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lowe-McConnell, R. H. 1969. Speciation in tropical freshwater fishes. Pp. 5175 in Lowe-McConnell, R. H. (ed.). Speciation in tropical environments. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
Lowe-McConnell, R. H. 1975. Fish communities in tropical freshwaters: their distribution, ecology and evolution. Longman, London & New York.Google Scholar
Lowe-McConnell, R. H. 1987. Ecological studies in tropical fish communities. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ribbink, A. J. 1994. Biodiversity and speciation of freshwater fishes with particular reference to African cichlids. Pp. 261288 in Giller, P. S., Hilldrew, A. G. & Raffaelli, D. G. (eds). Aquatic ecology: scale, pattern and process. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.Google Scholar
Robertson, B. A. & Hardy, E. R. 1984. Zooplankton of Amazonian lakes and rivers. Pp. 337352 in Sioli, H. (ed.). The Amazon, limnology and landscape ecology of a mighty river and its basin. W. Junk, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
Santos, U. M. 1973. Beobachtungen Über Wasserbewegungen, chemische Shichtung und Fishwanderungen in Várzea-Seen am mittleren Solimões (Amazonas). Oecologia 13:239246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmidt, G. W. 1973. Primary production of phytoplankton in the three types of Amazonian waters. The limnology of a tropical flood-plain lake in central Amazonia (Lago do Castanho). Amazoniana 4:139203.Google Scholar
Val, A. L. & Almeida-Val, V. M. F. 1995. Fishes of the Amazon and their environment, physiological and biochemical aspect. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walker, I. 1987. The biology of streams as part of Amazonian forest ecology. Experientia 43:279287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar