Baseline Survey of the Lower Xingu River Rapids, Brazil: a Highly Diverse, Globally Unique, and Immediately Imperiled Ecosystem
The Amazon Basin is Earth?s most biodiverse watershed, yet much remains unknown about species diversity, population structures, biogeographic ranges, and ecological and evolutionary processes. This project will document and analyze the aquatic biodiversity of a 130 km-long anastomosing maze of high-energy rapids in Brazil: the Lower Xingu River Rapids (LXRR) and adjacent stretches of the Xingu. The LXRR faces imminent change from its wild state to both dewatered and lentic, impounded habitats following completion of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. New comprehensive specimen collections of fishes, crustaceans and mollusks and associated data will be used to address key questions in taxonomy, evolution and ecology, and will provide a permanent record (placed at US and Brazilian museums) and environmental baseline of life within the LXRR to assess future anthropogenic impacts. This project will advance understanding of the contribution that large river rapids make to tropical biodiversity and productivity, and will train a wide range aquatic scientists needed for the future study, protection and restoration of these habitats. An on-line, publicly accessible illustrated guide to the identification of LXRR fishes and invertebrates will be created. Two postdoctoral scientists will be supported. Training and learning opportunities will be offered for high school, undergraduate and graduate students.