Fish productivity in the lower lakes and Coorong, Australia, during severe drought

Brookes, Justin D., Aldridge, Kane T., Bice, Chris M., Deegan, Brian, Ferguson, Greg J., Paton, David C., Sheaves, Marcus, Ye, Qifeng, and Zampatti, Brenton P. (2015) Fish productivity in the lower lakes and Coorong, Australia, during severe drought. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 139 (2). pp. 189-215.

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Abstract

Anthropogenic modification of catchments and river flow can significantly alter estuarine habitats, hydrology and nutrient delivery with implications for fisheries productivity. The Coorong estuary at the terminus of Australia's River Murray supports an economically important fishery as well as being recognised internationally as a critical site for migratory birds. Salinity near the Murray Mouth varies between fresh and marine depending upon river flow, but the Coorong becomes increasingly saline along its 120km length. Freshwater flow to the Coorong is naturally variable but has significantly reduced by extraction for irrigated agriculture and domestic use upstream. Extreme drought from 2000 to 2010 and over-allocation of water resources resulted in the cessation of freshwater flow to the Coorong, significantly increasing salinity. During this period the diversity and abundance of organisms in the Coorong declined which reduced food web complexity. During lower flows the system generally becomes less productive as evidenced by: lower nutrient concentrations and loads, lower chlorophyll and primary productivity, a decrease in the abundance of fish-prey items (zooplankton, macroinvertebrates and small fish), a decrease in fish abundance, although this is not well reflected in fishery catch data because of the concentration of fishing in available habitat. The maintenance of flow is the only management strategy that stimulates recruitment, delivers nutrient resources to the estuary and ensures maintenance of habitable area by maintaining appropriate salinity.

Item ID: 41802
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0372-1426
Keywords: productivity, recruitment, food webs, mulloway, bream, connectivity
Funders: Australian Fisheries Research & Development Corporation
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 18:39
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070403 Fisheries Management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830204 Wild Caught Fin Fish (excl. Tuna) @ 100%
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