Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Physical environmental conditions, spawning and early-life stages of an estuarine fish: climate change implications for recruitment in intermittently open estuaries

Geoff Nicholson A D , Gregory P. Jenkins A B , John Sherwood C and Andy Longmore A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Marine and Freshwater Fisheries Research Institute, DPI Queenscliff Centre, PO Box 114, Queenscliff, Vic. 3225, Australia.

B Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.

C Deakin University, Warrnambool Campus, Warrnambool, Vic. 3280, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: geoff.nicholson@dpi.vic.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 59(8) 735-749 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF07197
Submitted: 23 October 2007  Accepted: 15 June 2008   Published: 22 August 2008

Abstract

Significant variation in the egg and larval survival and juvenile recruitment of estuarine fishes has been linked to fluctuating environmental conditions. This present study compared the distribution and abundance of black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) eggs and yolk-sac larvae between two microtidal estuaries of different flow regimes, where the riverine flow into the Glenelg estuary was around eight times the flow volume into the Hopkins estuary. Samples were collected monthly from September to November at sites along each estuary where vertical profiles of temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen (DO) were measured, and vertically stratified sampling of black bream eggs and yolk-sac larvae was conducted using a Schindler sampler. Salt wedge formation was apparent in both estuaries, with significant de-oxygenation of deeper, saline waters. Eggs occurred in a wide range of DO levels but yolk-sac larvae were less common at the lowest levels. Most eggs and yolk-sac larvae were collected in salinities greater than 10. Results suggested that egg mortality was higher in the Hopkins than the Glenelg estuary, which may be associated with the hypoxic conditions characteristic of low-flow conditions. The results have significant implications in terms of climate change that is predicted to lead to warmer, drier conditions in south-eastern Australia, potentially increasing stratification and subsequent hypoxic zones.

Additional keywords: black bream, climate change, eggs and larvae, estuarine flow, hypoxia, salinity.


Acknowledgements

We wish to acknowledge the funding made available by the Glenelg–Hopkins Catchment Management Authority to carry out this study, as Glenelg-Hopkins Catchment Management Authority Project 4.2. We also wish to acknowledge the assistance and advice rendered by Wayne Clay, Brett Abbott, Laurie Laurenson and Colin Magilton. The advice from the anonymous referees and journal editor in reviewing the first manuscript was appreciated. Within the umbrella of the Fisheries Research Branch, we were authorised under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Parliament of Victoria, Australia) to collect samples without permit.


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