Patterns in fish species composition and assemblage structure in the upper Salado River lakes, Pampa Plain, Argentina
The Pampa Plain, in the central region of Argentina, is mostly drained by the Salado River. The fish fauna of this river is mostly known from field collections in lower reach lakes. Consequently, we aimed to explore the composition and structure of the fish assemblages in the upper Salado River lakes. Patterns in dominance and persistence of species and assemblage level attributes were correlated with environmental and human activity-derived (NO3:NH4) variables. Overall, 19,913 individuals of
... 13 individuals of 17 species included in 5 orders and 11 families were collected. Several species are first records for the upper Salado River lakes. There was a marked proliferation of species in the family Characidae. Conversely, the remainder 10 families were only represented by one or two species. The species composition along the study lakes changed slightly but their relative contribution to the total fish collected (dominance) varied greatly. Rather few species were present in all collections suggesting an important interannual variability in assemblage stability. The gradient in water conductivity was an important factor for the persistence of particular species in the lakes. The gradients in water conductivity and NO3:NH4 ratio were associated with particular fish communities dominated by different groups of species. These results suggest that even when broad management and conservation strategies should encompass the system as a whole, lake-specific approaches must also be addressed. Overall, our results highlight that human impacts on surface waters may interact with environmental factors to influence the dynamics of fish species and the structure of their communities.