Application of the physical habitat simulation for fish species to assess environmental flows in an Atlantic Forest Stream in South-eastern Brazil

Autores UPV
Revista Neotropical Ichthyology


The physical habitat simulation sub-routine of the Instream Flow Incremental Methodology (IFIM) uses hydraulic modeling and suitability indices of target fish species to predict how differences in-stream flows affect the microhabitat occupation by fish species. This habitat modelling approach was adopted to assess the ecological effects of running flows on three neotropical fish species of different orders (Bryconamericus ornaticeps, Ancistrus multispinis and Geophagus brasiliensis).The study encompassed two reaches of an Atlantic Forest stream in Southeastern Brazil where topographic and hydraulic (depth, velocity and type of substrate) characteristics were measured to implement one-dimensional hydraulic simulation. Sub aquatic observation of fish was performed to collect data on microhabitat use and these data were used to develop habitat suitability curves that were used in the habitat simulation to obtain the habitat suitability index (HSI) and weighted usable area (WUA) versus flow curves. Upon these curves minimum and optimum environmental flows for the target fish species were proposed. Bryconamericus ornaticeps and A. multispinis selected microhabitats around 0.6 m depth, whereas G. brasiliensis showed a wider suitable range (0.35-0.9 m). All the three species were mainly observed in microhabitat with low flow velocity (0.1 m/s). Bryconamericus ornaticeps selected more frequently coarse substrate (e.g. boulders) but it appeared also over sandy substrate, whereas A. multispinis and G. brasiliensis selected preferably boulders. The range of 0.65-0.85 m3/s was found as the optimum to meet the needs of the three fish species. Our results agree with the necessary objective information to perform grounded management actions in the frame of a management program aiming at ecosystem conservation. Thereby it can be considered a successful pilot study in environmental flow assessment in an Atlantic Forest stream of Brazil.