Environmental changes on freshwater fish communities in South America in the last five decades: a case study in northeast Argentina.
Environmental changes together with other stressors, such as habitat destruction, may cause widespread extinctions, decrease in biodiversity and disrupt natural communities, resulting in novel species assemblages. South America has a large diversity of freshwater fishes with complex evolutionary histories, mainly due to the presence of a wide variety of aquatic environments. Argentina has experienced an increase in rainfall in the last five decades leading to important climatic and hydrological changes. These changes caused the displacement of the isohyets towards the west. This study reports changes in the composition of freshwater fishes in northeast Argentina during the last five decades, and investigated a causal relationship between the variation in fish assemblages and climate change.The changes in the distribution and composition of fish communities between 1962 and 2010 were analyzed in 22 stations. These stations were agrouped in relation to the ichthyogeographic provinces: Great Rivers province (GRp) and Pampean province (Pp). The correlation between rainfall in relation to the number total species from each of the studied provinces showed a significant positive correlation in Pp and not correlation in GRp. The annual mean river discharge and the number of total species from each ecoregion showed a significant positive correlation in GRp, and not correlation in Pp. The results of this study strongly suggest that the rainfall variations and river discharges observed in northeast Argentina induced changes in the composition of fish assemblages that lead to the redistribution of fish species among ichthyogeographic provinces.