Carp are a highly successful invasive fish species, now widespread, abundant and considered a pest in south-eastern Australia. To date, most management effort has been directed at reducing abundances of adult fish, with little consideration of population growth through reproduction. Environmental water allocations are now an important option for the rehabilitation of aquatic ecosystems, particularly in the Murray–Darling Basin. As carp respond to flows, there is concern that environmental watering may cause floodplain inundation and provide access to spawning habitats subsequently causing unwanted population increase. This is a management conundrum that needs to be carefully considered within the context of contemporary river flow management (natural, environmental, irrigation). This paper uses a population model to investigate flow-related carp population dynamics for three case studies in the Murray–Darling Basin: (1) river and terminal lakes; (2) wetlands and floodplain lakes; and (3) complex river channel and floodplain system. Results highlight distinctive outcomes depending on site characteristics. In particular, the terminal lakes maintain a significant source carp population regardless of river flow; hence any additional within-channel environmental flows are likely to have little impact on carp populations. In contrast, large-scale removal of carp from the lakes may be beneficial, especially in times of extended low river flows. Case studies 2 and 3 show how wetlands, floodplain lakes and the floodplain itself can now often be inundated for several months over the carp spawning season by high volume flows provided for irrigation or water transfers. Such inundations can be a major driver of carp populations, compared to within channel flows that have relatively little effecton recruitment. The use of a population model that incorporates river flows and different habitats for this flow-responsive species, allows for the comparison of likely population outcomes for differing hydrological scenarios to improve the management of risks relating to carp reproduction and flows.
Environmental Management – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 18, 2017
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