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

Large-scale patterns in species richness and composition of temperate riverine fish communities, south-eastern Australia

Peter C. Gehrke and John H. Harris

Marine and Freshwater Research 51(2) 165 - 182
Published: 2000


Riverine fish in New South Wales were studied to examine longitudinal trends in species richness and to identify fish communities on a large spatial scale. Five replicate rivers of four types (montane, slopes, regulated lowland and unregulated lowland) were selected from North Coast, South Coast, Murray and Darling regions. Fishwere sampled during summer and winter in two consecutive years with standardized gear that maximized the range of species caught.

The composition of fish communities varied among regions and river types, with little temporal variation. Distinct regional communities converged in montane reaches and diverged downstream. The fish fauna can be classified into North Coast, South Coast, Murray and Darling communities, with a distinct montane community at high elevations irrespective of the drainage division. Species richness increased downstream in both North Coast and South Coast regions by both replacement and the addition of new species. In contrast, species richness in the Darling and Murray regions reached a maximum in the slopes reaches and then declined, reflecting a loss of species in lowland reaches. The small number of species is typical of the freshwater fish faunas of similar climatic regions world-wide. Fish communities identified in this study form logical entities for fisheries management consistent with the ecosystem-focused, catchment-based approach to river management and water reform being adopted in Australia.

© CSIRO 2000

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