Immediate impact of piscicide operations on a Cape Floristic Region aquatic insect assemblage - a lesser of two evils?
de Moor, F.C.
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The piscicide rotenone is used as a conservation tool to remove alien fishes from rivers, though there is controversy over its effects on aquatic insects. An alien fish removal operation in the Rondegat River, Cape Floristic Region, South Africa, allowed the immediate impact of rotenone on an aquatic insect community in a region with high conservation values to be quantified. The insect community within the treated river was sampled in February 2011 (1 year before rotenone operations), February 2012 (1 week before) and March 2012 (1 week after). Insects were collected using kick sampling across multiple biotopes, together with samples from individual stones. We considered rotenone-precipitated losses to be those taxa captured a week before treatment but absent after, and assessed the endemism of lost species to determine the conservation impact of the rotenone. Species richness decreased significantly following treatment, even though many rare taxa were not recorded immediately prior to treatment. Of the 85 taxa identified, 18 were lost including five endemic to the mountain range which the river drains. Ephemeroptera were most severely affected, with a significant loss of density on stones post-rotenone and six out of 20 species missing. Since half the missing taxa were recorded upstream of the treatment area, recovery of diversity is likely to be relatively rapid. Given that alien invasive fish negatively affect both fish and aquatic insect communities in South Africa, the long-term positive conservation impact of removing these fish is likely to outweigh the short-term negative effects of the piscicide.
- RESEARCH: Weyl, O