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Brisbane, Australia

Warfe D.M.,Charles Darwin University | Pettit N.E.,University of Western Australia | Davies P.M.,University of Western Australia | Pusey B.J.,Griffith University | And 10 more authors.
Freshwater Biology | Year: 2011

1.Northern Australia is characterised by a tropical wet-dry climate that regulates the distinctive character of river flow regimes across the region. There is marked hydrological seasonality, with most flow occurring over only a few months of the year during the wet season. Flow is also characterised by high variability between years, and in the degree of flow cessation, or intermittency, over the dry season. 2.At present, the relatively low human population density and demand for water in the region means that most rivers have largely unmodified flow regimes. These rivers therefore provide a good opportunity to understand the role of natural flow variability in river ecosystem structure and processes. 3.This review describes the major flow regime classes characterising northern Australian rivers, from perennial to seasonally intermittent to extremely intermittent, and how these regimes give rise to marked differences in the ecological character of these tropical rivers, particularly their floodplains. 4.We describe the key features of these flow regimes, namely the wet and dry seasons and the transitions between these seasons, and how they regulate the biophysical heterogeneity, primary productivity and movement of biota in Australia's wet-dry tropical rivers. 5.We develop a conceptual model that predicts the likely hydrological and ecological consequences of future increases in water abstraction (e.g. for agriculture), and suggest how such impacts can be managed so that the distinctive ecological character of these rivers is maintained. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source

Moore B.R.,James Cook University | Simpfendorfer C.A.,James Cook University | Newman S.J.,Government of Western Australia | Stapley J.M.,Northern Fisheries Center | And 4 more authors.
Fisheries Research | Year: 2012

Understanding the life history of exploited fish species is not only critical in developing stock assessments and productivity models, but has a dual function in the delineation of connectivity and geographical population structure. In this study, patterns in growth and length and age at sex change of Polydactylus macrochir, an ecologically and economically important protandrous estuarine teleost, were examined to provide preliminary information on the species' connectivity and geographic structure across northern Australia. Considerable variation in life history parameters was observed among the 18 locations sampled. Both unconstrained and constrained (t 0=0) estimates of von Bertalanffy growth function parameters differed significantly among all neighbouring locations with the exception of two locations in Queensland's east coast and two in Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria waters, respectively. Comparisons of back-calculated length-at-age 2 provided additional evidence for growth differences among some locations, but were not significantly different among locations in the south-eastern Gulf of Carpentaria or on Queensland's east coast. The length and age at sex change differed markedly among locations, with fish from the east coast of Australia changing sex from males to females at significantly greater lengths and ages than elsewhere. Sex change occurred earliest at locations within Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria, where a large proportion of small, young females were recorded. The observed differences suggest that P. macrochir likely form a number of geographically and/or reproductively distinct groups in Australian waters and suggest that future studies examining connectivity and geographic population structure of estuarine fishes will likely benefit from the inclusion of comparisons of life history parameters. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. Source

Jardine T.D.,Griffith University | Halliday I.A.,Sustainable Fisheries Unit | Howley C.,Howley Environmental Consulting and CYMAG Environmental | Sinnamon V.,Kowanyama Aboriginal Land and Natural Resource Management Office | Bunn S.E.,Griffith University
Science of the Total Environment | Year: 2012

Little is known about the threat of mercury (Hg) to consumers in food webs of Australia's wet-dry tropics. This is despite high concentrations in similar biomes elsewhere and a recent history of gold mining that could lead to a high degree of exposure for biota. We analysed Hg in water, sediments, invertebrates and fishes in rivers and estuaries of north Queensland, Australia to determine its availability and biomagnification in food webs. Concentrations in water and sediments were low relative to other regions of Hg concern, with only four of 138 water samples and five of 60 sediment samples above detection limits of 0.1μgL -1 and 0.1μgg -1, respectively. Concentrations of Hg in fishes and invertebrates from riverine and wetland food webs were well below international consumption guidelines, including those in piscivorous fishes, likely due to low baseline concentrations and limited rates of biomagnification (average slope of log Hg vs. δ 15N=0.08). A large fish species of recreational, commercial, and cultural importance (the barramundi, Lates calcarifer), had low concentrations that were below consumption guidelines. Observed variation in Hg concentrations in this species was primarily explained by age and foraging location (floodplain vs. coastal), with floodplain feeders having higher Hg concentrations than those foraging at sea. These analyses suggest that there is a limited threat of Hg exposure for fish-eating consumers in this region. © 2011. Source

Gillanders B.M.,University of Adelaide | Elsdon T.S.,Jacobs Engineering | Halliday I.A.,Sustainable Fisheries Unit | Jenkins G.P.,University of Melbourne | And 2 more authors.
Marine and Freshwater Research | Year: 2011

Estuaries are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because changes in climatic and hydrologic variables that influence freshwater and marine systems will also affect estuaries. We review potential impacts of climate change on Australian estuaries and their fish. Geographic differences are likely because southern Australian climates are predicted to become warmer and drier, whereas northern regions may see increased precipitation. Environmental factors, including salinity gradients, suspended sediment, dissolved oxygen and nutrient concentrations, will be influenced by changing freshwater input and other climate variables. Potential impacts will vary depending on the geomorphology of the estuary and the level of build-up of sand bars across estuarine entrances. Changes to estuarine fish assemblages will depend on associated changes to salinity and estuarine-mouth morphology. Marine migrants may be severely affected by closure of estuarine mouths, depending on whether species 'must' use estuarine habitat and the level of migratory v. resident individuals. Depending on how fish in coastal waters locate estuaries, there may be reduced cues associated with estuarine mouths, particularly in southern Australia, potentially influencing abundance. In summary, climate change is expected to have major consequences for Australian estuaries and associated fish, although the nature of impacts will show significant regional variation. © 2011 CSIRO Open Access. Source

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