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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 55(2)

Identifying the influence of channel morphology on physical habitat availability for native fish: application to the two-spined blackfish (Gadopsis bispinosus) in the Cotter River, Australia

Ian Maddock A, Martin Thoms B D, Katarina Jonson B, Fiona Dyer B, Mark Lintermans B C

A Department of Applied Sciences, Geography and Archaeology, University College Worcester, Henwick Grove, Worcester, WR2 6AJ, UK
B CRC for Freshwater Ecology, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.
C Environment ACT, PO Box 144, Lyneham, ACT 2602, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: martin.thoms@canberra.edu.au
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The impact of channel morphology and flow on physical habitat availability for the two-spined blackfish (Gadopsis bispinosus) was assessed in the Cotter River, ACT, Australia. Physical habitat requirements for three life stages were identified based on previous field sampling in the Cotter River. Two sites were selected with contrasting channel morphology: Spur Hole, with a moderate gradient and runs and glides, and Vanity’s Crossing, with a steeper gradient, rapids, and fast-flowing pools. Physical Habitat Simulation System (PHABSIM) was used to simulate the flow v. physical habitat availability relationship for each life stage at both sites. Clear differences were apparent between sites, with Spur Hole characterised by increasing habitat with increasing flow and Vanity’s Crossing showing the opposite relationship. The nature of the channel morphology determined this difference, with Spur Hole characterised by marginal zones becoming inundated at higher flows and providing additional suitable physical habitat as discharge increases. Vanity’s Crossing does not contain similar marginal zones. Further analysis demonstrated that high water velocity was the most important factor limiting physical habitat availability at both sites. This approach demonstrates the importance of channel morphology in determining physical habitat availability and an alternative use of PHABSIM to highlight limiting factors for target species.

Keywords: channel geomorphic units, hydraulic habitat, upscaling.

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