Changes in land use and vegetation cover are the main vectors of inland waters degradation. The removal of vegetation cover facilitates erosion and sediment transport, nutrients and contaminants into the rivers, changes water physical and chemical characteristics and the availability of food and shelter for aquatic biota, and increases water flow and aquatic microhabitats homogenization. Therefore, significant biodiversity reductions occur in the affected water body. The most dramatic impacts of land use changes are suffered by smaller streams, because they are the primary recipients of the materials discharge from terrestrial systems. In the headwaters region of the Xingu River, conversion of forest to pasture and soybean crop in the agricultural expansion threatens the integrity of one of the greatest symbols of socio-cultural and biological diversity of Brazil. This study will test through standardized sampling methods in replicated streams the hypothesis that land use changes in the headwaters of the Xingu River affect individuals, populations and communities of fishes. Effects observed at the different biological organization levels will be associated with changes in environmental parameters related to the lotic system integrity and from the land management, particularly concerning the conversion of forest to pasture and soybean crop. Thus, this work aims to establish the baselines for the development of an environmental integrity evaluation system for the Xingu River headwaters using fishes.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: