Effects of river impoundment on ecosystem services of large tropical rivers: embodied energy and market value of artisanal fisheries.
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Applying the ecosystem services concept to conservation initiatives or in managing ecosystem services requires understanding how environmental impacts affect the ecology of key species or functional groups providing the services. We examined effects of river impoundments, one of the leading threats to freshwater biodiversity, on an important ecosystem service provided by large tropical rivers (i.e., artisanal fisheries). The societal and economic importance of this ecosystem service in developing countries may provide leverage to advance conservation agendas where future impoundments are being considered. We assessed impoundment effects on the energetic costs of fisheries production (embodied energy) and commercial market value of the artisanal fishery of the Paran River, Brazil, before and after formation of Itaipu Reservoir. High-value migratory species that dominated the fishery before the impoundment was built constituted a minor component of the contemporary fishery that is based heavily on reservoir-adapted introduced species. Cascading effects of river impoundment resulted in a mismatch between embodied energy and market value: energetic costs of fisheries production increased, whereas market value decreased. This was partially attributable to changes in species functional composition but also strongly linked to species identities that affected market value as a result of consumer preferences even when species were functionally similar. Similar trends are expected in other large tropical rivers following impoundment. In addition to identifying consequences of a common anthropogenic impact on an important ecosystem service, our assessment provides insight into the sustainability of fisheries production in tropical rivers and priorities for regional biodiversity conservation.