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

Facilitating upstream passage of small-bodied fishes: linking the thermal dependence of swimming ability to culvert design

Essie M. Rodgers A , Rebecca L. Cramp A , Matthew Gordos B , Anna Weier A , Sarah Fairfall B , Marcus Riches B and Craig E. Franklin A C

A School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

B Department of Primary Industries Fisheries, Wollongbar, NSW 2477, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: c.franklin@uq.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 65(8) 710-719 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13170
Submitted: 28 June 2013  Accepted: 4 November 2013   Published: 16 June 2014

Abstract

Fish passage through road culverts is poorly understood, particularly for small-bodied fishes, despite this information being integral to the restoration of waterway connectivity. We assessed the prolonged swimming performance of a small-bodied fish, empire gudgeon (Hypseleotris compressa; 3.2–7.7 cm total length, TL), and juvenile Australian bass (Percalates novemaculeata; 3.5–7.8 cm TL). Swimming trials were conducted in a hydraulic flume across a range of fixed and increasing velocities in response to acute and long-term thermal treatments. A new statistical approach (Tobit analysis) was used to relate the thermal dependence of swimming endurance to hydraulic characteristics of culverts, providing estimates of maximum water velocity allowing upstream fish passage. Reductions in water temperature of 10°C, similar to those caused by cold-water releases from dams, significantly impaired critical swimming speeds of both species. Traversable water-velocity models identified H. compressa as a weak swimmer, requiring very low water velocities (≤0.10 m s–1 or 2.86 body lengths (BL) s–1) for unrestricted passage, whereas P. novemaculeata was predicted to traverse water velocities of ≤0.39 m s–1 or 12.12 BL s–1. Culvert designs can be improved by limiting water velocities to accommodate weak-swimming fishes and by accounting for the thermal sensitivity of swimming performance.

Additional keywords: fish endurance, pipe culvert, thermal acclimation, thermal pollution, time to fatigue, velocity barrier.


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