From an irrigation system to an ecological asset: Adding environmental flows establishes recovery of a threatened fish species

Ivor Stuart, Clayton Sharpe, Kathryn Stanislawski, Anna Parker, Martin Mallen-Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Worldwide, riverine fish are the target of environmental water because populations have declined in lotic river habitats following river regulation. Murray cod is an endangered Australian riverine fish with remaining populations associated with lotic river reaches with instream habitat, including some creeks operated as part of irrigation systems. Our objectives were to develop a life history model, apply the building block method of environmental flows to enhance the abundance of juvenile Murray cod and promote population recovery. From 2008 to 2018 we evaluated changes to Murray cod juvenile abundance before and after implementation of a perennial environmental flow regime that began in 2013. During the first year of the environmental flow, larvae were collected as evidence of spawning. Murray cod abundance can be enhanced with environmental flows that target: (1) an annual spring spawning or recruitment flow with no rapid water level drops; (2) maximising hydrodynamic complexity (i.e. flowing habitats that are longitudinally continuous and hydrodynamically complex); and (3) an annual base winter connection flow. Recognition that incorporating hydraulics (water level and velocity) at fine and coarse time scales, over spatial scales that reflect life histories, provides broader opportunities to expand the scope of environmental flows to help restore imperilled fish species in regulated ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Volume70
Issue number9
Early online date26 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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