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Origin of Fish Biomass in a Diverse Subtropical River: An Allochthonic-Supported Biomass Increase Following Flood Pulses

  • Ivan González-BergonzoniEmail author
  • Alejandro D’Anatro
  • Nicolás Vidal
  • Samanta Stebniki
  • Giancarlo Tesitore
  • Ivana Silva
  • Franco Teixeira de Mello


The origin of resources supporting metazoan biomass in rivers has long been a subject of debate. The river wave concept (RWC) postulates that the energetic basis of food webs varies along its spatial–temporal location with respect to flow pulses. According to the RWC, river flow determines carbon assimilation in food webs, but this may also depend on river geomorphology. However, studies testing this theory are scarce, particularly those from large subtropical rivers. To analyse the origin of fish biomass in areas of differing geomorphology, we combined stable isotope analysis with standardised measurements of biomass of a diverse fish assemblage along the lower Uruguay River. Furthermore, using 14 years of monitoring data, we tested for relationships between the biomass of species dominantly fuelled by allochthonic resources and the river flow. Fish biomass was dominantly allochthonous-derived along most of the studied sites. At all trophic levels, autochthonous-derived fish biomass was the highest in an upstream anabranch functional process zone (FPZ) (fuelling 54% of the total biomass), while allochthonous-derived biomass prevailed downstream, in the widest sections of an unconstrained lowland FPZ (fuelling 64–72% of the total biomass). Moreover, the dominant species that derived most of its biomass from allochthonous resources (Prochilodus lineatus) increased its biomass following flood pulses. This study supports the RWC statements that, at a spatial scale, local river geomorphology affects fuelling sources for food webs (probably by determining contrasting resource availability scenarios) and, at a temporal scale, increases in the allochthonous fraction of biomass are driven by flood pulses.


river wave concept river food webs energy subsidies fuelling resources allochthonous carbon Uruguay River Prochilodus lineatus 



We gratefully thank the many students and researchers that helped with the fish monitoring sampling campaigns, namely Jukka Tana, Diego Larrea, Roberto Ballabio, Malvina Masdeu, Daniel Garcia, Emanuel Machín, Juan Manuel Martinez, Sebastian Serra, Joaquín Pais, Anahí López and Matias Zarucki. We also thank the artisanal fisherman from Las Cañas, Elbio Russo, and the wildlife park ranger from Nuevo Berlin, Angel Rosano for their constant support and collaboration with sampling and fisheries data. This research project was partly funded by the Scientific Research Sectorial Commission (Uruguay) (Project CSIC I + D_2016_577-348) and the National Agency for Innovation and Research (ANII) (Project ANII-FCE_2_2016_1_126780). From 2005, sampling campaigns were financed by the UPM pulp mill environmental monitoring programme; we thank Gervasio Gonzalez for logistics and data accessibility. IGB, AD, NV and FTM received financial support by the ANII National System of Researchers (SNI), and IGB also received financial support from a ANII scholarship (ANII PD_NAC_2015_1_108121).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 324 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 12 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan González-Bergonzoni
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Alejandro D’Anatro
    • 2
  • Nicolás Vidal
    • 2
  • Samanta Stebniki
    • 2
  • Giancarlo Tesitore
    • 2
    • 4
  • Ivana Silva
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Franco Teixeira de Mello
    • 4
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología y Biología EvolutivaInstituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente EstableMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecología y Evolución, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay
  3. 3.Departamento del Agua, CENUR Litoral NortePaysandúUruguay
  4. 4.Departamento de Ecología y Gestión Ambiental CUREUniversidad de la RepúblicaMaldonadoUruguay

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