Date of Award

Spring 4-20-2018

Semester of Degree


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Environmental and Forest Biology


Environmental and Forest Biology

Major Professor

Donald J. Stewart

Steering Committee Member

Leandro Castello

Steering Committee Member

A. Peter Klimley

Steering Committee Member

Karin E. Limburg

Steering Committee Member

James P. Gibbs


This work investigated floodplain fish ecology and implications for management and conservation by studying the most historically important and overexploited fisheries in South America, the arapaima (genus Arapaima). Through actionable research in arapaima ecology and fishery management, this dissertation aimed to improve inland fish conservation and management in floodplain ecosystems. First, through a systematic literature review, thematic, geographic, and temporal trends in arapaima research were identified. Despite exponential growth in arapaima research, only one-third of studies were applicable to management and notable knowledge gaps remained that could hinder decision making for arapaima management and conservation. The second analysis explored variability in arapaima reproductive traits. Observations from the Lower Amazon were compared to findings across South America. Considerable variation in size at first sexual maturation and nesting features was found within and between regions. The third analysis characterized seasonal arapaima migration patterns by using acoustic telemetry to monitor migrations of 24 arapaima over a two year period. Results showed connectivity of arapaima from different lake populations and crossover between community-based management zones during high-water seasons. In addition, arapaima showed lake fidelity in low water seasons. Finally, successes of small-scale co-management efforts to promote recovery for arapaima fisheries were highlighted. The history of arapaima fishing, early management efforts, and improvements to management approaches were discussed. Then, implementation of co-management at small scales was evaluated across three regions based on presence of eight principles for sustainable governance of common property resources. For each region, current and ongoing challenges were considered. Then, lessons were identified that can be useful for management of arapaima and other inland fisheries. In summary, successful floodplain fishery management and conservation practices should address knowledge gaps to establish practices based on a comprehensive knowledge base on fish ecology.