Pereyra, P.E.R, Hallwas, G., Poesch, M.S. and R. Silvano (2021) ‘Taking fishers’ knowledge to the lab’: an interdisciplinary approach to understand fish trophic relationships in the Brazilian Amazon. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Citation: Pereyra, P.E.R, Hallwass, G., Poesch, M.S. and R. Silvano (2021) ‘Taking fishers’ knowledge to the lab’: an interdisciplinary approach to understand fish trophic relationships in the Brazilian Amazon. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2021.723026

Abstract

Trophic levels can be applied to describe the ecological role of organisms in food webs and assess changes in ecosystems. Stable isotopes analysis can assist in the understanding of trophic interactions and use of food resources by aquatic organisms. The local ecological knowledge (LEK) of fishers can be an alternative to advance understanding about fish trophic interactions and to construct aquatic food webs, especially in regions lacking research capacity. The objectives of this study are: to calculate the trophic levels of six fish species important to fishing by combining data from stable isotopes analysis and fishers’ LEK in two clear water rivers (Tapajós and Tocantins) in the Brazilian Amazon; to compare the trophic levels of these fish between the two methods (stable isotopes analysis and LEK) and the two rivers; and to develop diagrams representing the trophic webs of the main fish prey and predators based on fisher’s LEK. The fish species studied were Pescada (Plagioscion squamosissimus), Tucunaré (Cichla pinima), Piranha (Serrasalmus rhombeus), Aracu (Leporinus fasciatus), Charuto (Hemiodus unimaculatus) and Jaraqui (Semaprochilodus spp.). A total of 98 interviews and 63 samples for stable isotopes analysis were carried out in both rivers. The average fish trophic levels did not differ between the stable isotopes analysis and the LEK in the Tapajós, nor in the Tocantins Rivers. The overall trophic level of the studied fish species obtained through the LEK did not differ from data obtained through the stable isotopes analysis in both rivers, except for the Aracu in the Tapajós River. The main food items consumed by the fish according to fishers’ LEK did agree with fish diets as described in the biological literature. Fishers provided useful information on fish predators and feeding habits of endangered species, such as river dolphin and river otter. Collaboration with fishers through LEK studies can be a viable approach to produce reliable data on fish trophic ecology to improve fisheries management and species conservation in tropical freshwater environments and other regions with data limitations.

*Lab members: Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Castaneda, R.A., Ackerman, J.D., Chapman, L.J., Cooke, S.J., Cuddington, K., Dextrase, A., Jackson, D.A., Koops, M.A., Krkosek, M., Loftus, K., Mandrak, N.E., Martel, A.L., Molnar, P., Morris, T.J., Pitcher, T.E., Poesch, M.S., Power, M., Pratt, T.C., Reid, S.M., Rodriguez, M.A., Rosenfeld, J., Wilson, C., Zanatta, D.T. and D.A.R. Drake. (2021) Approaches and research needs for advancing the protection and recovery of imperilled freshwater fishes and mussels in Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Citation: Castaneda, R.A., Ackerman, J.D., Chapman, L.J., Cooke, S.J., Cuddington, K., Dextrase, A., Jackson, D.A., Koops, M.A., Krkosek, M., Loftus, K., Mandrak, N.E., Martel, A.L., Molnar, P., Morris, T.J., Pitcher, T.E., Poesch, M.S., Power, M., Pratt, T.C., Reid, S.M., Rodriguez, M.A., Rosenfeld, J., Wilson, C., Zanatta, D.T. and D.A.R. Drake. (2021) Approaches and research needs for advancing the protection and recovery of imperilled freshwater fishes and mussels in Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Abstract

Effective conservation requires that species recovery measures are informed by rigorous scientific research. For imperilled freshwater fishes and mussels in Canada, numerous research gaps exist, in part owing to the need for specialized research methods. The Canadian Freshwater Species at Risk Research Network (SARNET) was formed, and identified or implemented approaches to address current research gaps, including: 1) captive experimental research populations; 2) non-lethal methods for estimating abundance and distribution; 3) non-lethal field methods to measure life-history parameters; 4) species distribution models informed by co-occurring species; 5) integration of conservation physiology into habitat and threat science; 6) evidence syntheses to evaluate threats and recovery strategies; 7) disease-transmission models to understand mussel-host relationships; 8) experimental mesocosms and manipulative experiments to evaluate key habitat stressors; 9) threat and hazard models for predictive applications; and, 10) rigorous evaluation of surrogate species. Over a dozen threat and recovery-focused SARNET-research applications are summarized, demonstrating the value of a coordinated research program between academics and government to advance scientific research on, and to support the recovery of, imperilled freshwater species.

*Lab members: Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Baird, I., Silvano, R., Parlee, B., Poesch, M., Napolean, A., Lepine, M., Halwass, G., and B. MacLean. (2021) The Downstream Impacts of Hydropower Dams and Indigenous and Local Knowledge: Examples from the Peace-Athabasca, Mekong and Amazon River Basins. Environmental Management 67: 682-696.

Citation: Baird, I., Silvano, R., Parlee, B., Poesch, M., Napolean, A., Lepine, M., Halwass, G., and B. MacLean. (2021) The Downstream Impacts of Hydropower Dams and Indigenous and Local Knowledge: Examples from the Peace-Athabasca, Mekong and Amazon River Basins. Environmental Management 67: 682-696 

Abstract

There has been much written about the negative social and environmental impacts of large hydropower dams, particularly the impacts on people and the environment caused by flooding linked to the creation of large reservoirs. There has also long been recognition of the importance of Indigenous and local knowledge for understanding ecological processes and environmental impacts. In this paper, however, we focus on a topic that has received insufficient consideration: the downstream impacts of dams, and the role of Indigenous and local knowledge in assessing and addressing these impacts. Using examples from three river basins in different parts of the world: the Peace-Athabasca in Canada, the Mekong in mainland Southeast Asia, and the Amazon in Brazil, we demonstrate that the downstream impacts of hydropower dams are often neglected due to the frequently long distances between dams and impacted areas, jurisdictional boundaries, and the less obvious nature of downstream impacts. We contend that Indigenous or local knowledge, if applied consistently and appropriately, have important roles to play in understanding and addressing these impacts, with the goal of avoiding, reducing, and appropriately compensating for the types of environmental injustices that are frequently associated with the downstream impacts of dams.

*Lab members: Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Banting, A.*, Vinebrooke, R., Taylor, M., Carli, C. and M.S. Poesch. (2021) Impacts of a regionally-native predator on littoral macrobenthos in fishless mountain lakes: implications for assisted colonization. Conservation Science and Practice 3(2): e344.

Citation: Banting, A., Vinebrooke, R., Taylor, M., Carli, C. and M.S. Poesch. (2021) Impacts of a regionally-native predator on littoral macrobenthos in fishless mountain lakes: implications for assisted colonization. Conservation Science and Practice 3(2): e344.

Abstract

The intentional introduction of native cold-water trout into high elevation fishless lakes has been considered as a tool for building resilience to climate change (i.e. “assisted colonization”). However, ecological impacts on recipient communities are understudied. Our purpose was to inform native trout recovery by assessing potential consequences of translocating a regionally-native trout (Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii) into fishless mountain lakes. We compared littoral benthic invertebrate richness, diversity, community structure, and density between three groups of lakes (native trout, nonnative trout, and fishless) in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. While richness and diversity was conserved across all lake groups, other lines of evidence suggested introducing native Westslope Cutthroat Trout into fishless lakes can alter littoral benthic invertebrate communities in similar ways as nonnative Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). The community structure of  Cutthroat Trout lakes resembled Brook Trout lakes in comparison to fishless lakes. For example, both trout lake groups contained lower density of free-swimming ameletid mayflies and a higher density of some burrowing taxa. Considering the alteration certain aquatic invertebrates can cause cascading trophic effects, we suggest risk assessments consider a broad range of taxa to mitigate risk of collateral damage from trout recovery actions.

*Lab members: Allison Banting and Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Donadt, C.*, Cooke, C., Graydon, J. and M.S. Poesch. (2021) Biological factors moderate trace element accumulation in fish along an environmental concentration gradient. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 40(2): 422-434.

Citation: Donadt, C., Cooke, C., Graydon, J. and M.S. Poesch. (2021) Biological factors moderate trace element accumulation in fish along an environmental concentration gradient. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 40(2): 422-434.

Abstract

Trace elements can accumulate in aquatic foodwebs, becoming potentially hazardous wildlife and human health. While many studies have examined mercury dynamics in freshwater environments, evidence for the bioaccumulative potential of other trace elements (e.g., arsenic) is conflicting. Trace element concentrations found in surface water of the Red Deer River, Alberta, Canada, have raised concern for potential accumulation in aquatic biota. We investigated fish from this river to better understand the influence of biological and environmental factors in trace element bioaccumulation. We analyzed 20 trace elements and food web tracers, stable nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) isotopes, in muscle tissue. Zinc, selenium, arsenic, chromium, and nickel were detected in the majority of fish at low concentrations. However, mercury was detected in all fish and often exceeded criteria for the protection of consumers. Body size was often positively correlated with trace element concentrations. Additionally, food web tracers were correlated to mercury and arsenic concentrations, indicating that mercury biomagnifies whereas arsenic bio-diminishes. Spatial patterns of fish trace element concentrations did not reflect differences in surface water concentrations. These findings indicate that fish trace element concentrations are primarily moderated by biological factors, such as trophic position and body size, and are not locally restricted to areas of relatively high environmental concentrations in the Red Deer River.

*Lab members: Caitlyn Donadt and Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Donadt, C.*, Cooke, C., Graydon, J. and M.S. Poesch. (2021) Mercury bioaccumulation in stream fish from an agriculturally-dominated watershed. Chemosphere 262: 128059.

Citation: Donadt, C., Cooke, C., Graydon, J. and M.S. Poesch. (2021) Mercury bioaccumulation in stream fish from an agriculturally-dominated watershed. Chemosphere 262: 128059.

Abstract

Bioaccumulation of mercury in freshwater fish is a complex process driven by environmental and biological factors. In this study, we assessed mercury in fish from four tributaries to the Red Deer River, Alberta, Canada, which are characterized by high surface water mercury concentrations. We used carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotopes to examine relationships between fish total mercury (THg) concentrations, food web dynamics and patterns in unfiltered THg and methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations. We found that THg concentrations exceeded the tissue residue quality guideline for the protection of wildlife consumers in 99.7% of fish sampled. However, while the surface water THg concentration was highest in Michichi Creek and the MeHg concentration was consistent across streams, patterns of fish THg concentrations varied depending on species. Furthermore, body size and trophic level were only correlated with THg concentrations in white sucker (Catostomus commersoni) and Prussian carp (Carrasius gibelio). The results of this study suggest that mercury poses a risk to the health of piscivorous wildlife in the Red Deer River watershed. Despite high THg concentrations in these streams, mercury bioaccumulation is not driven by environmental inorganic mercury concentrations. Additionally, commonly cited factors associated with mercury concentrations in fish, such as body size and trophic level, may not strongly influence bioaccumulation in these stream ecosystems.

*Lab members: Caitlyn Donadt and Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Research by Kaegan Finn highlighted by Alberta Wildlife Society Chapter

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, undergraduate student Kaegan Finn was unable to present his research at the Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society (ACTWS) annual general meeting. Thankfully, ACTWS has been sharing some of the research from the conference on their website. In August, ACTWS highlighted Kaegan Finn’s excellent poster. Kaegan was an undergrad conducting research in the lab. I am delighted that Kaegan was able to share his hard work. Check it out for yourself here on the ACTWS webpage (link).

Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation Lab lead a workshop on offsetting strategies in the oil sands region

Sebastian Theis, Jonathan Ruppert, Karling Roberts, Michael Terry and Mark Poesch led a workshop with around 60 participants from industry, consulting, provincial and federal governments and academia. The workshop brought stakeholders together to discuss research in the lab on offsetting in freshwaters, including how to create ecologically robust compensation lakes. Thanks to everyone who participated. Feel free to follow-up with us with any questions. 

Sinnatamby, R.N.*, Loewen, T.N., Luo, Y., Pearson, D.G., Bicalho, B., Grant-Weaver, I., Cuss, C.W., Poesch,M.S., and W. Shotyk. (2019). Spatial assessment of major and trace element concentrations from Lower Athabasca Region Trout-perch (Percopsis omiscomaycus) otoliths. Science of the Total Environment 655 (10):  363-373.

Citation: Sinnatamby, R.N.*, Loewen, T.N., Luo, Y., Pearson, D.G., Bicalho, B., Grant-Weaver, I., Cuss, C.W., Poesch,M.S., and W. Shotyk. (2019). Spatial assessment of major and trace element concentrations from Lower Athabasca Region Trout-perch (Percopsis omiscomaycus) otoliths. Science of the Total Environment 655 (10):  363-373. 

Abstract

The Lower Athabasca Region (LAR) is home to the largest bitumen deposit in Alberta, and has seen industrial development related to the extraction and processing of bituminous sands since the late 1960s. Along with industrial and economic growth related to oil sands development, environmental concerns have increased in recent decades, including those about potential effects on fish. We measured major and trace element concentrations in Trout-perch otoliths from the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers in the LAR, to illustrate spatial variations and identify possible industrial impacts. Both laser ablation ICP-MS and solution-based ICP-MS methods were employed. Of the trace elements enriched in bitumen (V, Ni, Mo and Re), only Ni and Re were above the limits of detection using at least one of the methods. The only significant differences in element concentrations between upstream and downstream locations were found for Li, Cu, and Pb which were more abundant upstream of industry. For comparison and additional perspective, otoliths from the same fish species, but taken from the Batchawana River in northern Ontario, were also examined. The fish from Alberta yielded greater concentrations of Ba, Bi, Li, Mg, Na, Re, Sc, Th and Y, but the Ontario fish more Cr, Rb and Tl, because of differences in geology.

*Lab members: Nilo SinnatambyMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Graphical Abstract

Donner, M. Cuss, C., Poesch, M.S., Sinnatamby, N.*, Siddique, T., and W. Shotyk. (2018) Selenium in surface waters of the lower Athabasca River watershed: chemical speciation and implications for aquatic life. Environmental Pollution 243 (B): 1343-1351.

Citation: Donner, M. Cuss, C., Poesch, M.S., Sinnatamby, N.*, Siddique, T., and W. Shotyk. 2018. Selenium in surface waters of the lower Athabasca River watershed: chemical speciation and implications for aquatic life. Environmental Pollution 243 (B): 1343-1351.

Abstract

Selenium in the lower Athabasca River (Alberta, Canada) is of concern due to potential inputs from the weathering of shallow bitumen deposits and emissions from nearby surface mines and upgraders. Understanding the source of this Se, however, is complicated by contributions from naturally saline groundwater and organic matter-rich tributaries. As part of a two-year multidisciplinary study to assess natural and anthropogenic inputs, Se and its chemical speciation were determined in water samples collected along a ~125 km transect of the Athabasca River and associated tributaries. Selenium was also determined in the muscle of Trout-perch (Percopsis omiscomaycus), a non-migratory fish species, that were sampled from selected locations. Dissolved (< 0.45 µm) Se in the Athabasca River was consistently low in 2014 (0.11 ± 0.02 µg L-1; n = 14) and 2015 (0.16 ± 0.02 µg L-1; n = 21), with no observable increase from upstream to downstream. Selenate was the predominant inorganic form (~60 ng L-1) and selenite was below detection limits at most locations. The average concentration of Se in Trout-perch muscle was 2.2 ± 0.4 mg kg-1 (n = 34), and no significant difference (p > 0.05) was observed between upstream and midstream (industrial) or downstream reaches. Tributary waters contained very low concentrations of Se (typically < 0.1 µg L-1), which was most likely present in the form of dissolved organic colloids.

*Lab members: Nilo SinnatambyMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Graphical Abstract