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Fish and aquatic habitat conservation in South America: a continental overview with emphasis on neotropical systems

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Fish conservation in South America is a pressing issue. The biodiversity of fishes, just as with all other groups of plants and animals, is far from fully known. Continuing habitat loss may result in biodiversity losses before full species diversity is known. In this review, the main river basins of South America (Magdalena, Orinoco, Amazon and Paraná–La Plata system), together with key aquatic habitats (mangrove-fringed estuaries of the tropical humid, tropical semi-arid and subtropical regions) are analysed in terms of their characteristics and main concerns. Habitat loss was the main concern identified for all South American ecosystems. It may be caused by damming of rivers, deforestation, water pollution, mining, poor agricultural practice or inadequate management practice. Habitat loss has a direct consequence, which is a decrease in the availability of living resources, a serious social and economic issue, especially for South American nations which are all developing countries. The introduction of exotic species and overfishing were also identified as widespread across the continent and its main freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems. Finally, suggestions are made to find ways to overcome these problems. The main suggestion is a change of paradigm and a new design for conservation actions, starting with integrated research and aiming at the co-ordinated and harmonized management of the main transboundary waters of the continent. The actions would be focused on habitat conservation and social rescue of the less well-off populations of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Energy and freshwater demands will also have to be rescaled in order to control habitat loss.
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Keywords: Amazon; La Plata River basins; Magdalena; Orinoco; Paraguay; Paraná; Patos Lagoon; Uruguay; ecosystem conservation; estuary; mangrove forest; neotropical fishes

Document Type: Editorial

Affiliations: 1: Instituto Tecnologico de Chascomus, Camino de Circunvalación Laguna km 6, 7130 Chascomus, Argentina 2: Departamento de Biodiversidade e Ecologia, Faculdade de Biociências–PUCRS. Av. Ipiranga 6681, Prédio 12-C, Sala 173, 90619-900, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil 3: Nupelia, Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Av. Colombo 5790, 87020-900, Maringá, Paraná, Brazil 4: Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA), Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil 5: Laboratório de Genética Evolutiva e Animal, Departamento de Zoologia, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Cidade Universitária, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil 6: Instituto de Biología, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia 7: Laboratório de Biologia Pesqueira, Manejo dos Recursos Aquáticos da Universidade Federal do Pará, Av. Perimetral 2651, Terra Firme 66040-170, Belém, Pará, Brazil 8: Universidade Federal de Alagoas–ICBS, Maceió, Alagoas, Brazil 9: Instituto de Investigación de los Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humbolt, Calle 28a, N°15-09, Bogotá, Colombia 10: Laboratório de Ecologia e Gerenciamento de Ecossistemas Costeiros e Estuarinos, Departamento de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Cidade Universitária, 50740-550, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil 11: Departamento de Zoologia, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Centro Politécnico, C. P. 19020, CEP 81531-980, Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil 12: Laboratório de Ictiologia, Departamento de Oceanografia, Fundação Universidade Federal de Rio Grande, C. P. 474, CEP 96201-900, Rio Grande, RS, Brazil 13: Centro de Estudos do Mar, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Av. Beira Mar s/n°, Pontal do Paraná, Paraná, Brazil

Publication date: 2010-06-01

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