Environmental Management

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 443–453 | Cite as

Predicting the Influence of Streamflow on Migration and Spawning of a Threatened Diadromous Fish, the Australian Grayling Prototroctes Maraena

  • W. M. KosterEmail author
  • D. A. Crook
  • D. R. Dawson
  • S. Gaskill
  • J. R. Morrongiello


The development of effective strategies to restore the biological functioning of aquatic ecosystems with altered flow regimes requires a detailed understanding of flow-ecology requirements, which is unfortunately lacking in many cases. By understanding the flow conditions required to initiate critical life history events such as migration and spawning, it is possible to mitigate the threats posed by regulated river flow by providing targeted environmental flow releases from impoundments. In this study, we examined the influence of hydrological variables (e.g., flow magnitude), temporal variables (e.g., day of year) and spatial variables (e.g., longitudinal position of fish) on two key life history events (migration to spawning grounds and spawning activity) for a threatened diadromous fish (Australian grayling Prototroctes maraena) using data collected from 2008 to 2015 in the Bunyip–Tarago river system in Victoria. Our analyses revealed that flow changes act as a cue to downstream migration, but movement responses differed spatially: fish in the upper catchment showed a more specific requirement for rising discharge to initiate migration than fish in the lower catchment. Egg concentrations peaked in May when weekly flows increased relative to the median flow during a given spawning period. This information has recently been incorporated into the development of targeted environmental flows to facilitate migration and spawning by Australian grayling in the Bunyip–Tarago river system and other coastal systems in Victoria.


Environmental flow Reproductive behaviour Acoustic telemetry 



Melbourne Water and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning funded this study. Lauren Dodd, Renae Ayres, Mike Nicol, Graham Hackett, Jed Macdonald, Damien O’Mahony and Frank Amtstaetter assisted with field work or laboratory sorting. Thanks go to Justin O’Connor, David Meagher and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This study was conducted under Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Permit 10004353 and 10005451, Fisheries Victoria Research Permit RP-827 and ethics permits 07/20, 08/04, 11/11 and 10/28 (ARI Animal Ethics Committee).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

267_2017_853_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (74 kb)
Supplementary Information


  1. Alluvium (2015) Macalister river environmental flows review. Alluvium, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  2. Amtstaetter F, O’Connor J, Pickworth A (2015) Environmental flow releases trigger spawning migrations by Australian grayling Prototroctes maraena, a threatened, diadromous fish. Aqua Conserv 26:35–43. doi: 10.1002/aqc.2570 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arthington AH (2012) Environmental flows: Saving Rivers in the Third Millennium. University of California Press, CaliforniaCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Backhouse G, Jackson J, O’Connor J (2008) National recovery plan for the Australian Grayling Prototroctes maraena. Department of Sustainability and Environment, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  5. Berra TM (1982) Life history of the Australian grayling, Prototroctes maraena (Salmoniformes: Prototroctidae) in the Tambo River, Victoria. Copeia 198:795–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bestley S, Patterson TA, Hindell MA, Gunn JS (2010) Predicting feeding success in a migratory predator: integrating telemetry, environment, and modeling techniques. Ecol 91:2373–2384. doi: 10.1890/08-2019.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bishop KA, Bell JD (1978) Aspects of the biology of the Australian Grayling Prototroctes maraena Günther (Pisces : Prototroctidae). Aust J Marine Freshwater Res 29:743–761. doi: 10.1071/MF9780743 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boubée JA, Mitchell CP, Chisnall BL, West DW, Bowman EJ, Haro A (2001) Factors regulating the downstream migration of mature eels (Anguilla spp.) at Aniwhenua Dam, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. NZ J Marine Freshwater Res 35:121–134. doi: 10.1080/00288330.2001.9516982 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brodersen J, Nilsson PA, Hansson L-A, Skov C, Brönmark C (2008) Condition-dependent individual decision-making determines cyprinid partial migration. Ecol 89:1195–1200. doi: 10.1890/07-1318.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bunn SE, Arthington AH (2002) Basic principles and ecological consequences of altered flow regimes for aquatic biodiversity. Environ Manage 30:492–507. doi: 10.1007/s00267-002-2737-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer-Verlag, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  12. Chapman BB, Brönmark C, Nilsson J-Å, Hansson L-A (2011) The ecology and evolution of partial migration. Oikos 120:1764–1775. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2011.20131.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crook DA, Koster WM, Macdonald JI, Nicol SJ, Belcher CA, Dawson DR, O’Mahony DJ, Lovett D, Walker A, Bannam L (2010) Catadromous migrations by female tupong (Pseudaphritis urvillii) in coastal streams in Victoria, Australia. Marine Freshwater Res 61:474–483. doi: 10.1071/MF09170 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crook DA, Macdonald JI, O’Connor JP, Barry B (2006) Use of otolith chemistry to examine patterns of diadromy in the threatened Australian grayling Prototroctes maraena. J Fish Biol 69:1330–1344. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2006.01191.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Durif CMF, Elie P (2008) Predicting downstream migration of silver eels in a large river catchment based on commercial fishery data. Fisheries Manag Ecol 15:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Earth Tech (2006) Environmental flow determination for the Bunyip and Tarago Rivers - issues paper. Earth Tech Engineering, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  17. Freeman MC, Bowen ZH, Bovee KD, Irwin ER (2001) Flow and habitat effects on juvenile fish abundance in natural and altered flow regimes. Ecol Appl 11:179–190. doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2001)011[0179:faheoj];2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Godinho A, Kynard B, Godinho H (2007) Migration and spawning of female surubim (Pseudoplatystoma corruscans, Pimelodidae) in the São Francisco river, Brazil. Env Biol Fish 80:421–433. doi: 10.1007/s10641-006-9141-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Growns I, James M (2005) Relationships between river flows and recreational catches of Australian bass. J Fish Biol 66:404–416. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-1112.2005.00605.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hall DN, Harrington DJ (1989) Studies on the spawning and early life history of Australian Grayling, Prototroctes maraena Günther, in the Barwon River, Victoria. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research Technical Report Series No. 84. Department of Conservation, Forests and Land, Heidelberg, VictoriaGoogle Scholar
  21. Irving DB, Modde T (2000) Home-range fidelity and use of historic habitat by adult Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius) in the White River, Colorado and Utah. West N Am Naturalist 60:16–25Google Scholar
  22. Jacobs (2015) Moorabool River FLOWS study update. Jacobs Engineering Group, BendigoGoogle Scholar
  23. King A, Gawne B, Beesley L, Koehn J, Nielsen D, Price A (2015a) Improving ecological response monitoring of environmental flows. Environ Manage 55:991–1005. doi: 10.1007/s00267-015-0456-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. King AJ, Gwinn DC, Tonkin Z, Mahoney J, Raymond S, Beesley L (2015b) Using abiotic drivers of fish spawning to inform environmental flow management. J Appl Ecol 53:34–43. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12542 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. King AJ, Ward KA, O’Connor P, Green D, Tonkin Z, Mahoney J (2010) Adaptive management of an environmental watering event to enhance native fish spawning and recruitment. Freshwater Biol 55:17–31. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2009.02178.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Koehn JD, King AJ, Beesley L, Copeland C, Zampatti BP, Mallen-Cooper M (2014) Flows for native fish in the Murray-Darling Basin: lessons and considerations for future management. Ecol Manage Restor 15:40–50. doi: 10.1111/emr.12091 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Koehn JD, O’Connor WG (1990) Biological information for management of native freshwater fish in Victoria. Victorian Government Printing Office, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  28. Koster WM, Amtstaetter F, Dawson DR, Morrongiello JR, Reich P (2017) Provision of environmental flows promotes spawning of a nationally threatened diadromous fish. Marine Freshwater Res 68:159–166. doi: 10.1071/MF15398 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Koster WM, Dawson DR, Crook DA (2013) Downstream spawning migration by the amphidromous Australian grayling (Prototroctes maraena) in a coastal river in south-eastern Australia. Marine Freshwater Res 64:31–41. doi: 10.1071/MF12196 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Koster WM, Dawson DR, Liu C, Moloney PD, Crook DA, Thomson JR (2016) Influence of streamflow on spawning-related movements of golden perch Macquaria ambigua in south-eastern Australia. J Fish Biol 90:93–108. doi: 10.1111/jfb.13160 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lytle DA, Poff NL (2004) Adaptation to natural flow regimes. Trends Ecol Evol 19:94–100. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2003.10.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McMahon TA, Finlayson BL (2003) Droughts and anti-droughts: the low flow hydrology of Australian rivers. Freshwater Biol 48:1147–1160. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2427.2003.01098.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Morrongiello JR, Crook DA, King AJ, Ramsey DSL, Brown P (2011) Impacts of drought and predicted effects of climate change on fish growth in temperate Australian lakes. Glob Change Biol 17:745–755. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02259.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Murchie KJ, Hair KPE, Pullen CE, Redpath TD, Stephens HR, Cooke SJ (2008) Fish response to modified flow regimes in regulated rivers: research methods, effects and opportunities. River Res Appl 24:197–217. doi: 10.1002/rra.1058 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nemeth RS, Blondeau J, Herzlieb S, Kadison E (2006) Spatial and temporal patterns of movement and migration at spawning aggregations of red hind, Epinephelus guttatus, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Environ Biol Fish 78:365–381. doi: 10.1007/s10641-006-9161-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Northcote TG (1984) Mechanisms of fish migration in rivers. In: McCleave, J, Arnold, G, Dodson, J & Neill, W (eds) Mechanisms of migration in fishes, Plenum, New York, p 317–355Google Scholar
  37. O’Connor JP, Mahoney JC (2004) Observations of ovarian involution in the Australian grayling (Prototroctes maraena). Ecol Freshwater Fish 13:70–73. doi: 10.1111/j.0906-6691.2004.00020.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Piper AT, Manes C, Siniscalchi F, Marion A, Wright RM, Kemp PS (2015) Response of seaward-migrating European eel (Anguilla anguilla) to manipulated flow fields. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 282:20151098. doi:10.1098/rspb.2015.1098Google Scholar
  39. Poff NL, Zimmerman JKH (2010) Ecological responses to altered flow regimes: a literature review to inform the science and management of environmental flows. Freshwater Biol 55:194–205. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2009.02272.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. R Development Core Team (2015) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  41. Silva AT, Santos JM, Ferreira MT, Pinheiro AN, Katopodis C (2011) Effects of water velocity and turbulence on the behaviour of Iberian barbel (Luciobarbus bocagei, Steindachner 1864) in an experimental pool-type fishway. River ResAppl 27:360–373. doi: 10.1002/rra.1363 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. SKM (2005) Determination of the minimum environmental water requirements for the Yarra River. Minimum environmental water requirement and complementary works recommendations. Sinclair Knight Merz, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  43. SKM (2012) Yarra River environmental flow study review. Flow recommendations report. Sinclair Knight Merz, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  44. SKM (2013) Review of the environmental flow recommendations for the Bunyip and Tarago rivers. Sinclair Knight Merz, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  45. Stewart-Koster B, Olden JD, Gido KB (2013) Quantifying flow–ecology relationships with functional linear models. Hydrol Sci J 59:629–644. doi: 10.1080/02626667.2013.860231 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Taylor MK, Cooke SJ (2012) Meta-analyses of the effects of river flow on fish movement and activity. Environ Rev 20:211–219. doi: 10.1139/a2012-009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. VEWH (2016) Seasonal Watering Plan 2016-17. Victorian Environmental Water Holder, MelbourneGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. M. Koster
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. A. Crook
    • 2
  • D. R. Dawson
    • 1
  • S. Gaskill
    • 3
  • J. R. Morrongiello
    • 4
  1. 1.Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental ResearchDepartment of Environment, Land, Water and PlanningHeidelbergAustralia
  2. 2.Research Institute for the Environment and LivelihoodsCharles Darwin UniversityDarwinAustralia
  3. 3.Melbourne WaterDocklandsAustralia
  4. 4.School of BioSciencesUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations