, Volume 797, Issue 1, pp 289–301 | Cite as

Flow magnitude and variability influence growth of two freshwater fish species in a large regulated floodplain river

  • Zeb TonkinEmail author
  • Adrian Kitchingman
  • Jarod Lyon
  • Joanne Kearns
  • Graeme Hackett
  • Justin O’Mahony
  • Paul D. Moloney
  • Kyne Krusic-Golub
  • Tomas Bird
Primary Research Paper


Fish are often targets for environmental watering outcomes under the premise that aspects of the flow regime are linked to key components of their life-history. This study examined the conceptual link between variability in river discharge and fish productivity by measuring annual growth patterns (generated using sclerochronology over a 22-year period) of two native freshwater cod Maccullochella spp. species over a range of flow conditions in a regulated Australian floodplain River. We found a positive relationship between fish growth, flow variability and river discharge. Flow variability during spring and summer-autumn, as well as their antecedent values, was particularly important in explaining annual growth of the nationally endangered Maccullochella macquariensis. Growth of Maccullochella peelii displayed similar patterns, though were more closely aligned with spring discharge. These results are consistent with the general view that increased river regulation, due to its suppression of flow magnitude and variability, has been a major contributing factor in the decline of native fish populations throughout the world. Our results provide support and guidance for the use of environmental water delivery, and have broad application to rivers worldwide for which any quantification of ecological impacts of regulation, and responses to water management remain scarce.


River regulation Environmental flows Murray cod Trout cod Flood pulse concept Productivity Murray–Darling Basin 



We acknowledge the Murray–Darling Basin Authority for funding and their continued support in this research. We would also thank the large number of ARI staff for field assistance and John Koehn (ARI) and John Morrongiello (University of Melbourne) and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on early drafts. This work was conducted under NSW Fisheries Scientific Research Permit F93/158(C)-8.0 and OUT13/4461, Victorian Fisheries Research Permit RP827, FFG Research Permit 10005913 and DEPI Animal Ethics 07/23 and 11/02.

Supplementary material

10750_2017_3192_MOESM1_ESM.docx (471 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 470 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment, Land, Water and PlanningArthur Rylah Institute for Environmental ResearchHeidelbergAustralia
  2. 2.Fish Aging Services Pty LtdQueenscliffAustralia
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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