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Effects of the Belo Monte hydro-electric-dam complex on crocodilians in the Xingu River, Brazilian Amazonia

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journal contribution
posted on 05.08.2021, 06:21 by Zilca Campos, Fábio Muniz, William E. Magnusson, Guilherme Mourão

The Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River has the third largest generating capacity of any hydroelectric dam in the world. We conducted surveys of crocodilians (Caiman crocodilus, Paleosuchus trigonatus) by boat in the Xingu River at the site of the dam prior to (2013-2015), and after filling (2016-2017). While the number of C. crocodilus sighted decreased with increasing water level, there was no difference in numbers prior to, and after reservoir filling. The number of P. trigonatus was unaffected by both water level prior to and after reservoir filling. Reservoir filling had little effect on the number of crocodilians using the forest around the Xingu River reservoir. Most crocodilians seen in forest surveys were P. trigonatus, both before and after reservoir filling, but C. crocodilus was recorded occasionally in the forest. It seems that most Amazonian crocodilians are sufficiently generalist to adapt to the new conditions created by the construction of dams, at least in the short-term. However, there may be long-term collateral effects on crocodilian populations from dams, due to as deforestation and improved access for hunters.