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Marine Environmental Research
Volume 175, 2022, 105565

Variability in nearshore fish biodiversity indicators after a mining disaster in eastern Brazil

Ciro Colodetti Vilara, Ryan Andradesa,1

Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, United States.

Abstract

The rupture of the Fundão mining dam (Doce river basin, Brazil) caused a wide range of negative impacts. Yet, assemblage-level implications to estuarine and coastal fishes remain unclear, partly due to the lack of pre-disaster information. Based on monthly otter trawl surveys, we analyzed spatial and seasonal variability in univariate (total biomass, biomass of species vulnerable to exploitation, rarefied richness and evenness) and multivariate (species composition and trophic composition) indicators of fish biodiversity in the Doce river delta, eastern Brazil. We determined the independent and interactive effects of environmental, seasonal and spatial variables on species composition to test whether environmental alterations provoked by mine tailings could affect assemblage's organization. Most indicators present idiosyncratic spatiotemporal patterns, suggesting they have complementary roles in revealing changes in fish biodiversity. Environmental variables, including those affected by the Fundão dam collapse such as turbidity, dissolved oxygen and pH, were much more important than seasonal and spatial predictors in explaining the variation in fish species composition. These findings highlight the potential from mine tailings to disrupt local ichthyofauna and indicate a preponderant role of environmental conditions in assemblage structuring. Given the lack of data prior to rupture, our results may be used as a baseline against which to assess temporal trends in fish biodiversity relative to changes detected in less disturbed estuarine and coastal assemblages.

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