Importance of dam-free stretches for fish reproduction: the last remnant in the Upper Paraná River

<div><p> Abstract Aim: This study uses the abundance of fish eggs and larvae to evaluate the importance of the main channel of the Paraná River and the adjacent areas of the floodplain, in the last dam-free stretch in the Brazilian territory, for the spawning and development of fish of different reproductive guilds, in order to obtain subsidies to assist in the management and conservation policies of this area, focusing on the maintenance of dam-free areas. Methods Data were taken quarterly from August 2013 to May 2015, in 25 sites, grouped into three biotopes: main channel, tributaries and lagoons. Possible spatial variations in fish spawning and development as well as composition and structure of larvae were evaluated. Results Higher densities of eggs were found in tributaries (Paracaí and Amambai rivers) and greater densities of larvae were observed in lagoons (Saraiva). Significant differences in composition and structure of larvae were detected only between sampling stations. As for taxonomic composition, 29 taxa were recorded, mostly non-migratory. However, long-distance migratory were also widely distributed, such as Brycon orbignyanus, Pseudoplatystoma corruscans, Prochilodus lineatus, Piaractus mesopotamicus and Rhaphiodon vulpinus, as well as invasive species Platanichthys platana and Hemiodus orthonops. In turn, Salminus brasiliensis presented low occurrence. Conclusions This study evidenced that different species spawn in the region, mainly in tributaries, and their eggs and larvae are transported to the main channel of the Paraná River and adjacent lagoons, to complete their early development. The capture of larvae of important migratory species suggests that this environment still exhibits suitable conditions for their reproduction, mainly due to the presence of dam-free tributaries. Also, they emphasize the importance of the integrity of these environments for the maintenance of the regional fish fauna, and it is extremely important the monitoring of reproduction of the most endangered species, as well as of invasive species.</p></div>