Spatial and temporal variations in fish assemblage: testing the zonation concept in small reservoirs

<div><p>Abstract Large reservoirs usually present spatial gradients in fish assemblage, distinguishing three strata (littoral, pelagic, and bathypelagic) along the vertical and horizontal axes, and three zones (fluvial, transitional, and lacustrine) along the longitudinal axis. The main objective of this study was to assess if small reservoirs also present the spatial gradients in fish assemblage attributes and structure as already observed in large reservoirs. Fish surveys were conducted quarterly, from 2003 to 2008, in the Mourão Reservoir (Mourão River, Paraná, Brazil), using gillnets with different mesh sizes, arranged in all strata of all three zones. Community attributes (species richness and evenness) were calculated for each sample, and differences were tested using three-way ANOVA (factors: zone, strata, year). Community composition was summarized using Correspondence Analysis (CA) and differences were tested with three-way ANOVA for each axis, controlling the same three factors. Because of the high variability in reservoir water level through time, all analyses were made considering temporal variations. Species richness presented a decreasing trend from fluvial to lacustrine zones, and higher values in littoral strata, possibly because upper reaches and littoral regions provide better conditions for fish to feed and to reproduce. Evenness was considerably low, presenting high variability, and no evident pattern. The expected longitudinal gradient was not found in this study indicating longitudinal similarity, contrary to observed in large reservoirs. Vertical and horizontal gradients were observed in all sampling stations, indicating that abiotic and biotic conditions are influencing fish distributions within the reservoir.</p></div>