Effects of pulsed discharges from a hydropower station on summer diel feeding activity and diet of brown trout (Salmo trutta Linnaeus, 1758) in an Iberian stream
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The influence of pulsed discharges associated with hydroelectric power generation (i.e. hydropeaking) on feeding activity and diet composition of adult brown trout (Salmo trutta) was studied during the summer by comparing two sites: upstream (control site) and downstream from a power plant (hydropeaking
site). Twenty fish were captured from each study site by electrofishing at 4-hour intervals for two consecutive days and stomach contents were collected with pulsed gastric lavage. Hydropeaking events affected brown trout feeding behaviour as well as prey availability. Feeding intensity, measured by the stomach Fullness Index, showed pronounced variations with maximum values after flow pulses, which were linked to variations in prey availability because of increased drift rates of invertebrates. In contrast, brown trout living at the control site showed smoother variations in feeding activity not linked to invertebrate drift. Overall, brown trout at the hydropeaking site had higher food consumption rates and a more generalist and heterogeneous diet than trout from the control site, indicating an opportunistic feeding behaviour during flow pulses. Therefore, the hydrological disturbance caused by hydropeaking did not appear to cause direct negative impacts on feeding of adult brown trout. However, reduced trout density and imbalanced size structure in the hydropeaking site were detected, requiring further research to clarify the spatial influence of hydropeaking on other factors that could negatively affect brown trout populations.