Impacts of gold mining related habitat destruction on a highly endemic Tropical freshwater fish fauna
The impacts of environmental disturbance on ecological communities is understudied in tropical relative to temperate systems. Further, examining the recovery of these systems after disturbances is a gap in our understanding of ecological resilience. The Guiana Shield of northern South America is both one of the most diverse regions of the Neotropics and one of the most strongly impacted by mining of gold, bauxite and other minerals. As a result of uncommon topographical isolation, the upper Mazaruni River in Guyana houses one of the largest proportions of endemic freshwater fish diversity in the Neotropical region. Endemic species and genera span 11 of 14 families of fishes present in the watershed. This extraordinary pattern of endemism makes the upper Mazaruni an important area for understanding the interplay of evolutionary and ecological diversification in Neotropical rivers. However, extensive gold mining threatens the fish communities of the upper Mazaruni before many of its species are described and in the absence of an understanding of their vulnerabilities. In particular, placer mining practices result in extensive reconfiguration of the river bed and increase turbidity and siltation in a hydrological system normally characterized by low suspended solids. In 2011, we performed standardized sampling of fishes and their habitats to determine associations between species and habitat attributes and potential impacts of habitat alterations on community structure. We propose to 1) resample sites to examine whether community structure has recovered or further degraded and 2) expand sampling to better characterize the mechanisms that control the effects of habitat change on community structure across the watershed. We will use morphological correlates of ecological function to determine whether certain taxonomic or functional groups of fishes are disproportionately affected by mining-related habitat alterations.
Collected, curated and catalogued a total of 3407 fish specimens in 277 lots (individual species collections) into the Fish Division of the UM Museum of Zoology.
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the North East Council of Aquarium Societies
Presented at the UROP Summer Symposium MCubed Scholars in Ann Arbor, MI
The critical role of women in shifting local Guyanese communities from artisanal mining to conservation
$7,000 grant from the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Women and Gender's Mcubed Research Incentives Award