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

Using biological information to support proactive strategies for managing freshwater fish during drought

David A. Crook A C D , Paul Reich A B , Nick R. Bond B C , Damien McMaster B , John D. Koehn A and P. Sam Lake B
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Sustainability and Environment, 123 Brown St., Heidelberg, Vic. 3084, Australia.

B School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia.

C eWater CRC, University of Canberra Innovation Centre, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: David.Crook@dse.vic.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(3) 379-387 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF09209
Submitted: 20 August 2009  Accepted: 16 December 2009   Published: 29 March 2010

Abstract

This paper provides an assessment of the biological attributes of fish species in south-eastern Australia and rates their potential risk from the impacts of drought. We used scientific literature and expert opinion to conduct a semiquantitative assessment of attributes considered to influence species resistance and resilience to drought for 15 freshwater fish species found in south-eastern Australia. We also present a conceptual framework to guide management of fish populations during drought. The framework focuses on (1) quantifying spatial variation in the severity of drought impacts on particular habitats (rivers, wetlands etc.), (2) assembling information on drought sensitivities of regionally important species, (3) identifying high risk areas (based on species sensitivity and drought severity), (4) determining and implementing appropriate management actions (pre-emptive, responsive), (5) monitoring outcomes and (6) disseminating information on outcomes. In many regions, historic population declines will serve to exacerbate the impacts of drought, and thus are a major threat to successful recovery from drought. Although we discuss both long-term, pre-emptive planning and short-term, responsive management actions, we contend that a long-term view is required to successfully address the threats posed by drought. Furthermore, although droughts clearly represent a severe disturbance to fish populations, ultimately it is anthropogenic factors that exacerbate drought and constrain recovery pathways (at global, regional and local scales), rather than drought per se. These factors must be addressed if we are to ensure the long-term viability of fish populations in inland aquatic ecosystems.

Additional keywords: Australia, climate change, refugia, resilience, resistance, tolerances.


Acknowledgements

The authors thank Stephen Balcombe, Lee Baumgartner, Brendan Ebner, John Harris, Alison King, Jarod Lyon, Jed Macdonald, Shaun Meredith, Clayton Sharpe, Jason Thiem, Zeb Tonkin and Brenton Zampatti for their participation in the survey of biological attributes of fish species. Valuable comments on previous drafts of the manuscript were provided by Paulo Lay, Sam Marwood (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment), Leon Metzeling (Victorian Environmental Protection Authority), Heleena Bamford and Melissa Morley (Murray–Darling Basin Authority), Gerry Closs (University of Otago) and two anonymous referees. Financial support for this work was provided by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (Sustainable Water, Environment and Innovation Division), the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (Native Fish Strategy) and the eWater Cooperative Research Centre.


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