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Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management
Year: 2013  |  Volume: 16  |  Issue: 4  |  Page No.: 395 - 407

Fish diversity, community structure and ecological integrity of the tropical River Ganges, India

M. K. Das, A. P. Sharma, K. K. Vass, R. K. Tyagi, V. R. Suresh, M. Naskar and A. B. Akolkar    

Abstract: The Ganges River is one of the largest river systems in the world and sustains a rich biodiversity of fish and fishers. In recent years, a decline in fish diversity and catch has become apparent due to various anthropogenic activities in the river basin. This study analyses the current fish diversity, distribution and community structure along the longitudinal gradient of the river and evaluates the ecological integrity of the riverine stretch applying a multimetric assessment approach. One hundred forty three fish species were recorded from the river and Cyprinidae was the dominant family. The middle stretch of the river exhibited dominance of small bodied erytopic, indigenous and exotic fish species with periodic and opportunistic life history strategies with significant decline of the large bodied prized Indian major carps. A tropic shift towards dominance of carnivore catfish species is evident. Non-metric multidimensional scaling revealed greater distribution and abundance of fish species with increasing river width and depth, higher sediment organic carbon, silt and clay along the river gradient. A significant change in the catches composition was evident from 1961 to 2010 in the middle stretch of the river at Allahabad. It reflected a progressive decline in proportion of Indian major carps (IMC) and the anadromous Shad Tenualosa ilisha and a significant increase in the proportion of exotic fish Cyprinus carpio and Oreochromis niloticus which represented 43-48% of the total catch. Assessment of biotic integrity showed that 28% of sample locations in the river supported fish assemblages under acceptable conditions.

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