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Effects of mining activities on fish communities and food web dynamics in a lowland river
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  • Kristin Scharnweber,
  • Carolin Scholz,
  • Victor Schippenbeil,
  • Stefania Milano,
  • Daniel Hühn
Kristin Scharnweber
University of Potsdam

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Carolin Scholz
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
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Victor Schippenbeil
Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin Mathematisch Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultat
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Stefania Milano
Leibniz-Institut fur Zoo- und Wildtierforschung (IZW) im Forschungsverbund Berlin eV
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Daniel Hühn
Institut fur Binnenfischerei eV
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Abstract

Fish communities of streams and rivers might substantially be subsidized by terrestrial insects that fall into the water. Although such animal-mediated fluxes are increasingly recognized, little is known on how anthropogenic perturbations may influence the strength of such exchanges. Intense land-use, such as lignite mining may impact a river ecosystem due to the flocculation of iron (III) oxides, and thus altering food web dynamics. We compared sections of the Spree River in North-East Germany that were greatly influenced by iron oxides with sections located downstream of a dam where passive remediation technologies are applied. Compared to locations downstream of the dam, the abundance of benthic macroinvertebrates at locations of high iron concentrations upstream of the dam was significantly reduced. Similarly, catch per unit effort of all fishes was significantly higher in locations downstream of the dam compared to locations upstream of the dam and condition of juvenile and adult piscivorous pike Esox lucius were significantly lower in size in sections of high iron concentrations. Using an estimate of short-term (i.e., metabarcoding of the gut content) as well as longer-term (i.e., hydrogen stable isotopes) resource use, we could demonstrate that two of the three most abundant fish species, perch Perca fluviatilis, and bleak Alburnus alburnus, received higher contributions of terrestrial insects to their diet at locations of high iron concentration. In summary, lotic food webs upstream and downstream of the dam greatly differed in the overall structure with respect to the energy available for the highest tropic levels and the contribution of terrestrial insects to the diet of omnivorous fish. Therefore, human-induced environmental perturbation such as river damming and mining activities represent strong pressures that can alter the flow of energy between aquatic and terrestrial systems, indicating a broad impact on the landscape level.
24 Jul 2023Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
26 Oct 2023Assigned to Editor
26 Oct 2023Submission Checks Completed
14 Nov 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned