Regional-scale extremes in river discharge and localised spawning stock abundance influence recruitment dynamics of a threatened freshwater fish

Zeb Tonkin, J Kearns, Jarod P Lyon, Stephen R. Balcombe, Alison Jane King, Nick R. Bond

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


    Highly variable recruitment is common for many riverine fish species, governed by a wide range of biotic and abiotic drivers that operate at local and regional scales. The dynamics and drivers of recruitment for many Australian freshwater fish species, particularly those that are rare and long‐lived, are relatively undescribed. This study describes the recruitment dynamics of an endangered riverine fish, Macquarie perch Macquaria australasica, across 5 isolated populations from southeastern Australia, and relates these dynamics to drivers that vary at local and regional scales. We hypothesised large flow events occurring during the core egg, and larval period would be negatively associated with recruitment strength and that recruitment patterns across populations would fluctuate in synchrony in response to extremes in river discharge resulting from regional‐scale climatic patterns.

    Discharge during the core egg and larval period, which was highly correlated across the region, and a local‐scale variable, spawning stock abundance, were the covariates most important in explaining recruitment strength. We also observed synchronised patterns in recruitment across our populations, thus conforming to predictions of the Moran effect (environmental synchrony). The findings suggest that most remnant populations of Macquarie perch, which are now predominantly isolated within small tributary systems characterised by highly variable flows, face a heightened risk of poor recruitment periods, particularly under climate change predictions. The synchronised patterns in recruitment suggest that threatened freshwater fishes such as Macquarie perch with highly fragmented isolated populations have an increased risk of the regional population becoming imperilled, thus the need for a coordinated multijurisdictional conservation approach.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere1842
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

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