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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Opening the floodgates to the recovery of nektonic assemblages in a temperate coastal wetland

Craig A. Boys A B and Bruce Pease A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), Port Stephens Fisheries Institute, Locked Bag 1, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315, Australia.

B Corresponding author: Email: craig.boys@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(6) 1023-1035 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15445
Submitted: 1 December 2015  Accepted: 25 April 16   Published: 5 August 2016

Abstract

Tidally active wetlands are important nurseries for fish and crustaceans; however, urban development involving structural flood mitigation has fragmented and destroyed much of this habitat, often leading to losses in fisheries productivity. The present study demonstrated that some of these impacts may be reversible if rehabilitation projects are implemented over a sufficiently long time. The incremental opening of eight floodgates at a temperate coastal wetland in Australia afforded the opportunity to monitor water quality and nekton assemblages in a tidal creek over 11 years, encompassing pre-floodgate opening, opening of one gate, three gates and finally all eight gates. Floodgate opening enhanced both water quality and nektonic assemblages relative to a control creek whose barrier remained in place. A doubling in species richness occurred and many commercially important species increased in abundance, including Metapenaeus macleayi (15 times more), Acanthopagrus australis (62 times more), Liza argentea (10 times more) and Gerres subfasciatus (19 times more). Recovery to a condition similar to unrestricted reference creeks was achieved once all eight gates were opened. The study illustrated that reinstating tidal flushing can recover nursery habitats and enhance populations of economically valuable species.

Additional keywords: Hexham Swamp, tidal creeks, tidal restriction, wetland rehabilitation.


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