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

Temporal changes in fish abundance in response to hydrological variability in a dryland floodplain river

Stephen R. Balcombe A B and Angela H. Arthington A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Australian Rivers Institute and eWater Cooperative Research Centre, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, 4111, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: s.balcombe@griffith.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(2) 146-159 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF08118
Submitted: 10 April 2008  Accepted: 24 October 2008   Published: 20 February 2009

Abstract

Riverine fish living in unpredictable flow environments tend to be ecological generalists with traits that allow them to persist under highly variable and often harsh conditions associated with hydrological variation. Cooper Creek, an Australian dryland river, is characterised by extreme flow variability, especially in the magnitude, timing and duration of channel flows and floods, which, if they occur, do so mainly in summer. The present study examined the influence of hydrological variability on fish assemblages and abundance in four waterholes in the Windorah reach of Cooper Creek over eight occasions between 2001 and 2004. Antecedent flows had marked influences on fish species richness and assemblage structure. Following high summer flows, all waterholes supported a rich and abundant fish fauna, whereas fewer species and lower numbers were recorded following periods of zero channel flow. Recruitment of three of the four most common and abundant species was enhanced when intermittent flows inundated backwater and floodplain habitats that provide a food-rich environment. Opportunistic responses to rising channel flows and occasional large floods in Cooper Creek help to explain the prominent ‘boom’ patterns of fish production in this arid-zone river, whereas low-level recruitment during periods of low or no flow maintains populations of some species through the ‘bust’.

Additional keywords: fish assemblage structure, floodplains, floods, hydrology, recruitment, waterholes.


Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the various Dryland Refugia Project team members and volunteers who provided field support, and Sandy Kidd and David Smith for providing access to waterholes on their properties. Thanks also to Kim Markwell for summarising hydrology data provided by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines. We also appreciate the constructive comments provided by two anonymous reviewers. Our research was conducted under Queensland Fisheries Permit PRM00157K and Griffith University Animal Experimentation Ethics permit AES/03/02.


References

APHA (1975). ‘Standard Methods for the Examination of water and Wastewater.’ 14th edn. (American Public Health Association: Washington, DC.)

Arrington D. A., and Winemiller K. O. (2004). Organization and maintenance of fish diversity in shallow waters of tropical floodplain rivers. In ‘Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on the Management of Large Rivers for Fisheries, Volume II’. (Eds R. L. Welcomme and T. Petr.) pp. 25–36. RAP Publication 2004/17. (FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific: Bangkok.)

Arthington, A. H. , Balcombe, S. R. , Wilson, G. A. , Thoms, M. C. , and Marshall, J. (2005). Spatial and temporal variation in fish assemblage structure in isolated waterholes during the 2001 dry season of an arid-zone river, Cooper Creek, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 56, 25–35.
CrossRef |

Balcombe, S. R. , Bunn, S. E. , McKenzie-Smith, F. J. , and Davies, P. E. (2005). Variability of fish diets between dry and flood periods in an arid zone floodplain river. Journal of Fish Biology 67, 1552–1567.
CrossRef |

Balcombe, S. R. , Arthington, A. H. , Foster, N. D. , Thoms, M. C. , and Wilson, G. G. , et al. (2006). Fish assemblages of an Australian dryland river: abundance, assemblage structure and recruitment patterns in the Warrego River, Murray–Darling Basin. Marine and Freshwater Research 57, 619–633.
CrossRef |

Balcombe, S. R. , Bunn, S. E. , Arthington, A. H. , Fawcett, J. H. , and McKenzie-Smith, F. J. (2007). Fish larvae, growth and biomass relationships in an Australian arid zone river: links between floodplains and waterholes. Freshwater Biology 52, 2385–2398.
CrossRef |

Bunn, S. E. , Davies, P. M. , and Winning, M. (2003). Sources of organic carbon supporting the food web of an arid zone floodplain river. Freshwater Biology 48, 619–635.
CrossRef |

Bunn S. E., Balcombe S. R., Davies P. M., Fellows C. S., and McKenzie-Smith F. J. (2006>a). Aquatic productivity and food webs of desert river ecosystems. In ‘Ecology of Desert Rivers’. (Ed. R. T. Kingsford.) pp. 76–99. (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Bunn, S. E. , Thoms, M. C. , Hamilton, S. K. , and Capon, S. J. (2006b). Flow variability in dryland rivers: boom, bust and the bits in between. River Research and Applications 22, 179–186.
CrossRef |

Burford, M. A. , Cook, A. J. , Fellows, C. S. , Balcombe, S. R. , and Bunn, S. E. (2008). Sources of carbon fuelling production in an arid floodplain river. Marine and Freshwater Research 59, 224–234.
CrossRef | CAS |

Clarke K. R., and Arinsworth M. (1993). A method of linking multivate community structure to environmental variables. Marine Ecology Progress Series 92, 205–219.

Clark K. R., and Gorley R. N. (2001). ‘Primer v5: User Manual/Tutorial.’ (PRIMER-E Ltd: Plymouth.)

Clarke K. R., and Warwick R. M. (2001). ‘Change in Marine Communities: An Approach to Statistical Analysis and Interpretation.’ 2nd edn. (PRIMER-E Ltd: Plymouth.)

Cushing, D. H. (1990). Plankton production and year-class strength in fish populations: an update of the match/mismatch hypothesis. Advances in Marine Biology 26, 249–293.
CrossRef |

EPA (1999). ‘Water Quality Sampling Manual (Qld).’ 3rd edn. (Queensland Environmental Protection Agency: Brisbane.)

Hamilton, S. K. , Bunn, S. E. , Thoms, M. C. , and Marshall, J. C. (2005). Persistence of aquatic refugia between flow pulses in a dryland river system (Cooper Creek, Australia). Limnology and Oceanography 50, 743–754.
CAS |

Humphries, P. , King, A. J. , and Koehn, J. D. (1999). Fish, flows and floodplains: links between freshwater fishes and their environment in the Murray–Darling River system, Australia. Environmental Biology of Fishes 56, 129–151.
CrossRef |

Jackson, D. A. , Peres-Neto, P. R. , and Olden, J. D. (2001). What controls who is where in freshwater fish communities – the roles of biotic, abiotic and spatial factors. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 58, 157–170.
CrossRef |

Junk W. J., Bayley P. B., and Sparks R. E. (1989). The flood pulse concept in river–floodplain systems. In ‘Proceedings of the International Large River Symposium’. (Ed. D. P. Dodge.) pp. 110–127. Canadian Special Publication Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 106.

Keppel G. (1991). ‘Design and Analysis: a Researcher’s Handbook.’ (Prentice-Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ.)

King, A. J. (2004). Ontogenetic patterns of habitat use by fishes within the main channel of an Australian floodplain river. Journal of Fish Biology 65, 1582–1603.
CrossRef |

King, A. J. , Humphries, P. , and Lake, P. S. (2003). Fish recruitment on floodplains: the roles of patterns of flooding and life history characteristics. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 60, 773–786.
CrossRef |

Kingsford R. T. (2006). Changing desert rivers. In ‘Ecology of Desert Rivers’. (Ed. R. T. Kingsford.) pp. 336–345. (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Kingsford, R. T. , Curtin, A. L. , and Porter, J. L. (1999). Water flows on Cooper Creek determine ‘boom’ and ‘bust’ periods for waterbirds of the Paroo and Warrego Rivers. Biological Conservation 88, 231–248.
CrossRef |

Kingsford R. T., Georges A., and Unmack P. J. (2006). Vertebrates of desert rivers: meeting the challenges of temporal and spatial unpredictability. In ‘Ecology of Desert Rivers’. (Ed. R. T. Kingsford.) pp. 154–200. (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Knighton, A. D. , and Nanson, G. C. (1994). Waterholes and their significance in the anastomosing channel system of Cooper Creek, Australia. Geomorphology 9, 311–324.
CrossRef |

Knighton, A. D. , and Nanson, G. C. (2001). An event based approach to the hydrology of arid zone rivers in the Channel Country of Australia. Journal of Hydrology (Amsterdam) 254, 102–123.
CrossRef |

Magoulick, D. D. , and Kobza, R. M. (2003). The role of refugia for fishes during drought: a review and synthesis. Freshwater Biology 48, 1186–1198.
CrossRef |

Mallen-Cooper, M. , and Stewart, I. (2003). Age, growth and non-flood recruitment of two potamodromous fishes in a large semi-arid temperate river system. River Research and Applications 19, 697–719.
CrossRef |

Maltchik, L. , and Medeiros, E. S. F. (2006). Conservation importance of semi-arid streams in north-eastern Brazil: implications of hydrological disturbance and species diversity. Aquatic Conservation: Marine & Freshwater Ecosystems 16, 665–677.
CrossRef |

Medeiros, E. S. F. , and Maltchik, L. (2001a). Fish assemblage stability in an intermittently flowing stream from the Brazilian semiarid region. Austral Ecology 26, 156–164.
CrossRef |

Medeiros, E. S. F. , and Maltchik, L. (2001b). Effects of flood and drought on diversity and stability of fishes in a temporary river from the Brazilian semiarid region. Iheringia. Zoologia 90, 157–166.


Middleton N. J., and Thomas D. S. G. (1997). ‘World Atlas of Desertification.’ (UNEP/Edward Arnold: London.)

Milton, D. A. , and Arthington, A. H. (1984). Reproductive strategy and growth of the crimson-spotted rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida fluviatilis (Castelnau) (Pisces: Melanotaeniidae) in south-eastern Queensland. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 35, 75–83.
CrossRef |

Milton, D. A. , and Arthington, A. H. (1985). Reproductive strategy and growth of the Australian smelt, Retropinna semoni (Weber) (Pisces: Retropinnidae), and the olive perchlet, Ambassis nigripinnis (De Vis) (Pisces: Ambassidae) in Brisbane, south-eastern Queensland. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36, 329–341.
CrossRef |

Morton S. J., Short J., and Baker R. D. (1995). Refugia for biological diversity in arid and semi-arid Australia. Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 4. (Department of Environment, Sport and Territories: Canberra.)

Musyl, M. K. , and Keenan, C. P. (1992). Population genetics and zoogeography of Australian freshwater Golden Perch, Macquaria ambigua (Richardson 1845) (Teleostei: Percichthyidae), and electrophoretic identification of a new species from the Lake Eyre Basin. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43, 1585–1601.
CrossRef |

Orr, T. M. , and Millward, N. E. (1984). Reproduction and development of Neosilurus ater (Perugia) and Neosilurus hyrtlii Steindachner (Teleostei: Plotosidae) in a tropical Queensland stream. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 35, 187–195.
CrossRef |

Poff, N. L. , Allan, J. D. , Bain, M. B. , Karr, J. R. , and Prestegaard, K. L. , et al. (1997). The natural flow regime – a paradigm for river conservation and restoration. Bioscience 47, 769–784.
CrossRef |

Postel S. (1999). ‘Pillar of Sand. Can the Irrigation Miracle Last?’ (W. W. Norton and Company: New York.)

Puckridge J. T. (1999). The role of hydrology in the ecology of Cooper Creek, Central Australia: implications for the flood pulse concept. Ph.D. Thesis, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide.

Puckridge, J. T. , and Walker, K. F. (1990). Reproductive biology and larval development of a gizzard shad, Nematalosa erebi (Gunther) (Dorostomatinae: Teleosti), in the River Murray, South Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 41, 695–712.
CrossRef |

Puckridge, J. T. , Sheldon, F. , Walker, K. F. , and Boulton, A. J. (1998). Flow variability and the ecology of large rivers. Marine and Freshwater Research 49, 55–72.
CrossRef |

Puckridge, J. T. , Walker, K. F. , and Costelloe, J. F. (2000). Hydrological persistence and the ecology of dryland rivers. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 16, 385–402.
CrossRef |

Pusey, B. J. , Arthington, A. H. , Bird, J. R. , and Close, P. G. (2001). Reproduction in three species of rainbowfish (Melanotaeniidae) from rainforest streams in northern Queensland, Australia. Ecology Freshwater Fish 10, 75–87.
CrossRef |

Pusey, B. J. , Close, P. G. , Arthington, A. H. , and Bird, J. (2002). Larval fishes in rainforest streams: recruitment and microhabitat use. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 110, 27–46.


Pusey B. J., Kennard M. J., and Arthington A. H. (2004). ‘Freshwater Fishes of North-eastern Australia.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne.)

Rodriguez, M. A. , and Lewis, W. M. (1997). Structure of fish assemblages along environmental gradients in floodplain lakes of the Orinoco River. Ecological Monographs 67, 109–128.


Skelton, P. H. (1986). Fish of the Orange-Vaal system. Monographiae Biologicae 60, 143–161.


Sternberg, D. , Balcombe, S. , Marshall, J. , and Lobegeiger, J. (2008). Food resource variability in an Australian dryland river: evidence from the diet of two generalist native fish species. Marine and Freshwater Research 59, 137–144.
CrossRef |

Tejerina-Garro, F. L. , Fortin, R. , and Rodriguez, M. A. (1998). Fish community structure in relation to environmental variation in floodplain lakes of the Araguaia River, Amazon Basin. Environmental Biology of Fishes 51, 399–410.
CrossRef |

Walker, K. F. , Sheldon, F. , and Puckridge, J. T. (1995). An ecological perspective on dryland river ecosystems. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 11, 85–104.
CrossRef |

Welcomme R. L. (2001). ‘Inland Fisheries Ecology and Management.’ (Fishing News Books, Blackwell Science Ltd: Oxford, UK.)

Welcomme R. L., and Halls A. (2004). Dependence of tropical river fisheries on flow. In ‘Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on the Management of Large Rivers for Fisheries. Volume II’. (Eds R. L. Welcomme and T. Petr.) pp. 267–284. RAP Publication 2004/17. (FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific: Bangkok.)

Welcomme R. L.Bene C., Brown C. A., Arthington A., Dugan P., et al. (2006a). Predicting the water requirements of river fisheries. In ‘Wetlands and Natural Resource Management’. (Eds J. T. A. Verhoeven, B. Beltman, R. Bobbink and D. F. Whigham.) pp. 123–154. (Springer-Verlag: Berlin.)

Welcomme, R. L. , Winemiller, K. O. , and Cowx, I. G. (2006b). Fish environmental guilds as a tool for assessment of ecological condition of rivers. River Research and Applications 22, 377–396.
CrossRef |

Wishart M. J. (2006). Water scarcity: politics, populations and the ecology of desert rivers. In ‘Ecology of Desert Rivers’. (Ed. R. T. Kingsford.) pp. 315–335. (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Zeug, S. C. , and Winemiller, K. O. (2008). Relationships between hydrology, spatial heterogeneity and fish recruitment dynamics in a temperate floodplain river. River Research and Applications 24, 90–102.
CrossRef |



Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (52)