Pebbled places preferred by people and pipefish in a World Heritage protected area

Ebner, Brendan C., Maeda, Ken, Donaldson, James A., Harasti, David, Lord, Clara, Hay, Vincent, Heffernan, Jason, Starrs, Danswell, Thuesen, Paul, Beatty, Stephen, Boseto, David, Copeland, Lekima K.F., Rashni, Bindiya, Hevalao, Robson S., and Keith, Philippe (2023) Pebbled places preferred by people and pipefish in a World Heritage protected area. Cybium, 47 (4). pp. 401-416.

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Although the ecological impacts of recreational activities in clear tropical streams are occasionally acknowledged and addressed, frequently they remain unmanaged, despite the fact that such streams are highly sought-after destinations for leisure pursuits. Here, we provide a case study on the ecological characteristics of the Indo-Pacific freshwater pipefish Microphis leiaspis Bleeker, 1854, which is a habitat specialist with little available information aside from its reproductive biology and the downstream migration patterns of its larvae. Drawing from our collective experiences, we describe the distribution and habitat of Microphis leiaspis and examine the potential impacts of various small-scale human activities on its livelihood, including those occurring within protected areas. In particular, we document incidental observations of human disturbances to adult Microphis leiaspis habitat in clear freshwater streams located within the Australian Wet Tropics (AWT) World Heritage Area. Using these observations as a foundation, we conceptualize human interactions with this species in the AWT streams and more broadly across the tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean. Microphis leiaspis occurs in the lower-mid course of short-steep-coastal-streams, in association with pebble fields, where it feeds on microscopic benthic invertebrates. We observed three distinct human behaviours in the pipefish habitat within the AWT, including stone-stacking, the construction of boulder-cobble dams, and stone-skimming. Additionally, we report on other small-scale human activities that may potentially impact this pipefish species in streams across Pacific Island nations and select coastal regions of continents. Our recommendation is to promote a ‘leave no trace’ approach to the public, which can be effectively communicated by key individuals such as indigenous custodians, national park managers, locals, and tourism operators. This approach aims to minimize rock movement by people, thereby aiding in the protection of diadromous pipefish and other aquatic species residing in short-steepcoastal-streams.

Item ID: 80768
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2101-0315
Keywords: Flagship species, Habitat specialist, Protected areas, Recreational weirs, Stone-skimming, Stone-stacking, Temporary weirs, Temporary pits, Tourism
Copyright Information: © SFI
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2023 00:54
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310304 Freshwater ecology @ 50%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1803 Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management > 180301 Assessment and management of freshwater ecosystems @ 100%
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