River dams and the stability of bird communities: a hierarchical bayesian analysis in a tropical hydroelectric power plant.

Published online
29 Dec 2020
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Abreu, T. L. S. & Berg, S. B. & Faria, I. P. de & Gomes, L. P. & Marinho-Filho, J. S. & Colli, G. R.
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The effects of anthropogenic disturbance upon the stability of wildlife communities depend on the heterogeneity and connectivity of habitat remnants on multiple scales. The number of hydroelectric dams in biodiversity hotspots (Africa, South America and Asia) is growing rapidly. To establish their environmental impact, it is essential to understand the dynamics of wildlife communities before and following the establishment of dams. We evaluated the impacts of the filling of the Serra do Facão hydroelectric reservoir in the São Marcos river, central Brazil, on the bird community. Using data from 1,145 surveys across 20 sampling sites over 8 years, 2 years before and 6 years after the filling of the reservoir, we assessed the resistance, i.e. maintenance close to an equilibrium state during the disturbance, and resilience, i.e. ability to return to the original state following the disturbance, of the bird community. We used spatiotemporal hierarchical Bayesian models to assess the effects of reservoir filling on five community parameters: abundance, richness, phylogenetic diversity, functional diversity and species composition. In the period subsequent to reservoir filling, there was (a) a marked reduction in bird abundance, richness, phylogenetic diversity and functional diversity, and (b) a reduction in the proportion of forest species, coupled with an increase in the proportion of savanna species. Except for bird abundance, none of the other community attributes returned to their original levels, even after 6 years. Our findings indicate that Cerrado bird communities have both low resistance and low resilience to habitat loss associated with the establishment of hydroelectric reservoirs. Synthesisandapplications. The environmental costs of hydroelectric dams are still underestimated or neglected in Brazil. A new paradigm in the assessment of their environmental impacts is warranted, incorporating (a) models of spatiotemporal variations based on long-term monitoring with surveys initiated before disturbances and (b) measures of functional and phylogenetic diversity, such that society can understand the costs and benefits of the establishment of new hydroelectric dams and make informed decisions. Biodiversity loss could be minimized by ensuring the preservation and connectivity of alluvial habitats, capable of maintaining the supply of resources and the functional and phylogenetic attributes of bird communities associated with such habitats.

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