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Gorski K.,University of Waikato | Gorski K.,Wageningen University | Buijse A.D.,Deltares | Winter H.V.,Wageningen University | And 6 more authors.
River Research and Applications

Natural river-floodplain systems are characterized by their dynamic hydrology and diverse geomorphology resulting in a wide range of habitats that support high fish diversity and production. Various factors (e.g. hydrological dynamics, water quality, and biotic processes) have been proposed to explain fish distribution in large river floodplains, but it is still widely acknowledged that the mechanisms involved may vary in diverse floodplain systems and that they are not fully understood. To determine how flooding dynamics and floodplain geomorphology influence fish species distributions across the Volga-Akhtuba floodplain, Russian Federation, we examined the distributions of eight species with respect to variables reflecting floodplain hydrology and geomorphology. On the basis of fish catches in 40 floodplain water bodies at the end of summer in 2006-2008, we found that frequency of occurrence of most fish species remained stable along the time. The distribution of fish species was strongly influenced by the size and shape of water bodies as well as flood extent. Therefore, the long-term flood variability that drives the geomorphic heterogeneity of the floodplain creates suitable habitats across ranges of fish flow guilds (rheophilic, eurytopic, and limnophilic), resulting in high diversity of the floodplain ichthyofauna. We conclude that this diverse habitat availability is a highly significant factor influencing fish distribution in the Volga-Akhtuba floodplain. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Source

Gorski K.,Wageningen University | de Leeuw J.J.,Wageningen University | de Leeuw J.J.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Winter H.V.,Wageningen University | And 4 more authors.
Freshwater Biology

1.Large river floodplains are considered key nursery habitats for many species of riverine fish. The lower Volga River floodplains (Russian Federation) are still relatively undisturbed, serving as a suitable model for studying the influence of flooding and temperature on fish recruitment in floodplain rivers. 2.We examined the interannual variability in recruitment success of young-of-the-year (YOY) fish in the lower Volga floodplain in relation to flood pulse characteristics and rising water temperatures in the spring. We sampled four areas with different flooding regimes, in three consecutive years (2006-2008). 3.Extensive areas with a long duration of flooding accommodated high densities of young fish. This suggests that extended inundation improves the recruitment success of river fish. In areas with extensive flooding, the biomass of YOY of most fish species was about three times higher in 2006 and 2007 than in 2008. We hypothesise that low spring temperatures in 2008 may have caused this reduced recruitment and that a flood synchronised with rising temperature enhances recruitment success. 4.Extensive flooding was particularly favourable for species characterised by large body size, delayed maturation, high fecundity and low parental investment, such as pike Esox lucius, roach Rutilus rutilus and ide Leuciscus idus. Gibel carp Carassius gibelio, a species tolerant of high temperature and hypoxia, did particularly well in small waterbodies in the driest parts of the floodplain. 5.Structural characteristics of floodplain waterbodies explained much of YOY fish density. These species-environment associations varied from year to year, but some species such as common bream Abramis brama, roach and gibel carp showed consistent relationships with structural habitat characteristics in all years, despite large interannual fluctuations in flood pulse and spring temperature. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source

Gorski K.,Wageningen University | van den Bosch L.V.,University Utrecht | van de Wolfshaar K.E.,Wageningen University | van de Wolfshaar K.E.,University Utrecht | And 10 more authors.
River Research and Applications

Periodic flooding plays a key role in the ecology of floodplain rivers. Damming of such rivers can disturb flooding patterns and have a negative impact on commercial fish yield. The Volga River, the largest river in Europe, has a regulated flow regime after completion of a cascade of dams. Here, we study effects of damming on long-term discharge variability and flood pulse characteristics. In addition, we evaluate the effects of the altered flood pulse on floodplain ecosystem functioning and commercial fish yields. Our results indicate that both flood pulse and fish populations of the Volga-Akhtuba floodplain have varied considerably over the past decades. After damming, annual maximum peak discharges have decreased, minimum discharges increased, but average discharges remained similar to pre-damming conditions. Moreover, because of bed level incision of over 1.5m, a higher discharge is needed to reach bankfull level and inundate the floodplains. Despite this significantly altered hydrological regime and subsequent morphological changes, current discharge management still provides significant spring flooding. However, commercial fish catches did decrease after damming, both in the main channel and in the floodplain lakes. All catches were dominated by species with a eurytopic flow preference, although catches from the main channel contained more rheophilic species, and floodplain catches contained more limnophilic and phytophilic species. The strong increase of opportunistic gibel carp (Carassius gibelio) around 1985 was apparent in the main channel and the floodplain lakes. Despite the hydrological changes, the decrease in overall catches, and the upsurge of gibel, we found a strong positive effect of flood magnitude in the previous year on commercial fish yield in the floodplain lakes. This suggests that under the current discharge management there still is an increased fish growth and/or survival during high floods and that functioning of the floodplain is at least partly intact. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Source

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