Unraveling Linkages Between River Floodplain Dynamics, Fish Populations and Habitat Structure in the Amazon

EPA Grant Number: F13F11123
Title: Unraveling Linkages Between River Floodplain Dynamics, Fish Populations and Habitat Structure in the Amazon
Investigators: Gurdak, Daniel Joseph
Institution: The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 25, 2014 through August 25, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Ecology


Floodplain fisheries and the fish that depend on them are threatened worldwide. This work aims to improve fisheries management and the conservation of floodplain habitats in the Amazon by exploring various aspects of Arapaima ecology. The following null-hypotheses comprise the foundation of this research: (1) Arapaima growth and reproductive patterns are similar across the entire Amazon; (2) Arapaima are taxonomically similar across the entire Amazon; (3) Arapaima exhibit site fidelity; and (4) Arapaima habitat use is independent of floodplain habitat type.


Fieldwork will be conducted in select community zones near the city of SantarĂ©m (ParĂ¡ State, Brazil) in the Lower Amazon, near the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajos Rivers. During the fishing season, fishermen will be accompanied to collect samples and data from Arapaima captured for market. The following will be collected for each fish: length, weight and sex, as well as scale samples (for growth studies), taxonomic data and a macroscopic accession of reproductive stage. After the fishing season, ultrasonic tags will be surgically implanted on 50 Arapaima. Their movements will be monitored during the low- and high-water seasons in two ways: passively, using an array of 20 receivers, and actively, using a portable receiver with hydrophone. All data and samples will be processed in the lab, and data will be synthesized to address each research hypothesis using appropriate statistical tools.

Expected Results:

Growth and reproductive patterns are expected to differ from those in other parts of the Amazon and for different locations in the study area. In addition, initial data indicate that Arapaima from this region vary taxonomically. Arapaima are known to migrate laterally during high water, but specific movements, home range and habitat preferences will be elucidated by this research.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

This work integrates and depends on the participation of local communities (i.e., local land and habitat managers) and will engage local residents, fishermen and communities to promote effective conservation and management. This research also is closely integrated with the long-term efforts of a local nongovernmental organization and will help improve management of floodplain fisheries and ecosystems. Unfortunately, insufficient management of Arapaima has resulted in significant population decreases and even local extirpations of Arapaima in some areas. Successful community-based management of Arapaima has been associated with increased Arapaima populations and a boost in local and regional economies. However, without information about habitat use to include in management programs, these efforts cannot be sustainable. This work addresses this deficiency by providing a framework for the design of floodplain fisheries and habitat reserves with close involvement of community leaders. In addition, this project reflects the collaborative efforts and combined missions of multiple partner organizations in the United States and Brazil. This partnership will benefit both local and foreign partners, while contributing to science education in this region and worldwide. This work is pioneering telemetry research in the Amazon and will promote future collaborative research efforts and applications both in the Amazon and the United States.

Supplemental Keywords:

arapaima, conservation, floodplain

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final