Montoya Ceballos, Jose Vicente (2009-05). Influence of hydrological seasonality on sandbank benthos: algal biomass and shrimp abundance in a large neotropical river. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • In this study, I examined the influence of hydrological seasonality on spatiotemporal variation of algal biomass and shrimp abundance on sandbanks of the Cinaruco River in southwestern Venezuela. Seasonal variations of abiotic and biotic variables in the Cinaruco were driven by the hydrological regime. During the highwater periods, river sites in the main channel and lagoon sites were similar in water physicochemical variables and algal biomass. In contrast, physicochemical variables and algal biomass differed between river and lagoon sites during the low-water period. The absence of flow in lagoons and consistently low algal biomass on river sandbanks were the most important features of the spatial variability between main-channel and lagoon sandbanks during low-water phases. Benthic algal biomass was highly uniform at small spatial scales and significantly heterogeneous at large spatial scales. In the second major part of this dissertation, I found a relatively species-rich shrimp assemblage with seven species inhabiting the sandbanks of the Cinaruco. I also observed clear patterns of temporal and spatial variation in shrimp abundance on the Cinaruco sandbanks. Abundance of shrimp on the sandbanks presented remarkable diel variation, showing almost exclusive use of this habitat at nights. Seasonally, shrimp were more abundant during rising- and falling-water periods, when rapid changes of environmental conditions occur. Shrimp abundance was high on those sandbanks with absence of troughs and presence of submerged vegetation. These environmental features presumably promote colonization/establishment and survival/persistence of shrimp in the sandbanks. In a patch-dynamic view of communities, a mobility control model seems to apply to shrimp of the sandbanks in the Cinaruco during the period of rapid changes in hydrology and habitat structure. During low-water periods, when habitat structure of sandbanks is relatively constant, low shrimp abundance appears to be heavily controlled by high fish predation. The annual flood regime of the Cinaruco, which drives the concentrations of dissolved materials, affects material interchanges between aquatic and terrestrial systems, and modifies aquatic habitat structural complexity, is responsible for creating strong patterns of seasonal and spatial variation in benthic algal crops and shrimp abundance on the sandbanks of this large floodplain river.

publication date

  • December 2008