Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 6, pp 997–1009 | Cite as

Movement response of Orange-Vaal largemouth yellowfish (Labeobarbus kimberleyensis) to water quality and habitat features in the Vaal River, South Africa

  • T. Ramesh
  • Colleen T. DownsEmail author
  • Gordon C. O’Brien


Many threatened fish species that utilize riverine habitats are faced with habitat degradation and subsequent deterioration in their ecological surroundings. Habitat degradation is a consequence of water quality parameters associated with anthropogenic activities including mining, industrial, agricultural and urban activities. We examined how the movement behaviour of radio-tracked Orange-Vaal largemouth yellowfish (Labeobarbus kimberleyensis) responded to a suite of water quality chemical parameters and habitat features in the Vaal River, South Africa. We found that the probability of their movement increased with a decrease in water clarity, presence of emergent and overhanging marginal vegetation and fast flowing rapids. High mobility in conditions of low water clarity was probably related to low prey capture success of this piscivorous fish. High movement of largemouth yellowfish in emergent and overhanging marginal vegetation areas and rapid habitat biotopes were attributed to accessibility of prey within these important cover features. When water quality parameters were considered, the probability of largemouth yellowfish movement increased with increasing levels of dissolved chloride (Cl) and silicon (Si), whereas movement decreased with high phosphate (PO4) concentrations and increased with alkalinity levels in the river. High nutrient levels associated with eutrophication caused reductions in the movement of largemouth yellowfish. The association of increased movement of largemouth yellowfish with increasing Cl and Si is indicative of degraded habitat condition in the Vaal River system. Our study showed the importance of monitoring fish behavioural movement patterns to multiple environmental parameters, as these fish are important ecological indicators when appropriate conservation and management plans of freshwater ecosystems are required.


Ecosystem indicator Freshwater ecosystem Radio telemetry Environmental parameters Vaal River South Africa 



The study was co-funded by the Water Resource Commission (ZA), FlyCastaway Pty. Ltd., and the National Research Foundation (ZA). We acknowledge the contributions made by the Hoffman family from Wag ‘n Bietjie, K. Fourie from the Elgro River Lodge, and Rocky Ridge in Parys for logistic support. L. Cronje, F. Jacobs, H. Venter, R. Wyma and A. Husted assisted in the collection of behavioural data in the study. We thank the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal and National Research Foundation (ZA) for the financial support of TR under the Post-doctoral Research Programme to write this manuscript, and Science and Engineering Research Board, a statutory body of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India under Ramanujan Fellowship scheme while revising the manuscript. We thank R. Kalle for valuable editorial inputs on the draft version, and the reviewers for their constructive comments..

Author’s contributions

TR, GCO and CTD conceptualised the paper. GCO conducted the field work. TR analysed the data. TR wrote the manuscript; GCO and CTD provided editorial advice.

Compliance with ethical standards

Our research and animal tagging process was approved by the North West Ethics Committee (NWU-00095-12-A4).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalPietermaritzburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural HistoryCoimbatoreIndia

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