In India, freshwater environments are experiencing serious threats to biodiversity, and there is an urgent priority for the search of alternative techniques to promote fish biodiversity conservation and management. With this aim, the present study was undertaken to assess the fish biodiversity within and outside a river protected area, and to evaluate whether the protected river area provides some benefits to riverine fish biodiversity. To assess this, the pattern of freshwater fish diversity was studied in river Gerua, along with some physicochemical conditions, from April 2000 to March 2004. For this, a comparison was made between a 15km stretch of a protected area (Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary), and an unprotected one 85km downstream. In each site some physicochemical conditions were obtained, and fish were caught by normal gears and the diversity per site described. Our results showed that water temperature resulted warmest during the pre-monsoon season (25ºC) and low during the winter (14-15ºC); turbidity considerably varied by season. In the protected area, a total of 87 species belonging to eight orders, 22 families and 52 genera were collected; while a maximum of 59 species belonging to six orders, 20 families and 42 genera were recorded from the unprotected areas. Cyprinids were found to be the most dominant genera and Salmostoma bacaila was the most numerous species in the sanctuary area. Other numerous species were Eutropiichthys vacha, Notopterus notopterus, Clupisoma garua and Bagarius bagarius. The results indicated more species, greater abundances, larger individuals, and higher number of endangered fishes within the sanctuary area when compared to the unprotected area. Analysis on the mean abundance of endangered and vulnerable species for the evaluated areas in the sanctuary versus unprotected ones indicated significant differences in fish abundance (p<0.05). These results showed that this riverine protected area could be important for conservation and management of fish diversity in the region, especially for resident and threatened species.
Keywords: protected area, fish diversity, river gerua, aquatic sanctuary, conservation, india