Environmental perturbation and the structure and functioning of a tropical aquatic ecosystem

G.J. Piet, J. Vijverberg

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


    In Tissawewa, a shallow, eutrophic reservoir in southeastern Sri Lanka, the effect of a major drought on the ecosystem was studied by monitoring the size-structured fish community and its resource base. Primary production was determined as well as the production and diets of ten taxa belonging to four trophic guilds (i.e. herbivorous/detritivorous, benthivorous, zooplanktivorous/insectivorous, piscivorous) that made up more than 98% of the total fish biomass. Two extreme states of the ecosystem were distinguished. Before the drought most primary production was generated by phytoplankton, suspended fine particulate detritus was an important food source and total fish density was high. After the drought the ecosystem was characterised by high macrophyte density, low concentration of suspended detritus and low total fish density. The availability and origin of detritus appeared to be the major factor influencing fish production in Tissawewa. The small pelagic herbivore/detritivore A. melettinus contributed the most biomass and production to the fish community before the drought. After the drought, however, biomass and production dropped considerably. In contrast, the production of the most important species in terms of fisheries yield, the exotic herbivorous/detritivorous tilapias, was hardly affected. Although the compo In Sri Lankan reservoirs a subsidiary fishery for pelagic minor cyprinids was suggested to increase the current yield which is based almost entirely on the exotic tilapia species. The perturbation observed in this study, however, showed that the production of pelagic species was affected particularly by the environmental changes. Exploitation of these species can, therefore, only be considered in combination with hydrological and other management measures that control the environmental condition [KEYWORDS: drought, pelagic minor cyprinids, foodweb, fisheries management, production, reservoir, yield]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)265-279
    JournalJournal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress Recovery
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


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