School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences - Research Publications

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    Stage-dependent effects of river flow and temperature regimes on the growth dynamics of an apex predator
    Stoffels, RJ ; Weatherman, KE ; Bond, NR ; Morrongiello, JR ; Thiem, JD ; Butler, G ; Koster, W ; Kopf, RK ; McCasker, N ; Ye, Q ; Zampatti, B ; Broadhurst, B (WILEY, 2020-12)
    In the world's rivers, alteration of flow is a major driver of biodiversity decline. Global warming is now affecting the thermal and hydrological regimes of rivers, compounding the threat and complicating conservation planning. To inform management under a non‐stationary climate, we must improve our understanding of how flow and thermal regimes interact to affect the population dynamics of riverine biota. We used long‐term growth biochronologies, spanning 34 years and 400,000 km2, to model the growth dynamics of a long‐lived, apex predator (Murray cod) as a function of factors extrinsic (river discharge; air temperature; sub‐catchment) and intrinsic (age; individual) to the population. Annual growth of Murray cod showed significant, curvilinear, life‐stage‐specific responses to an interaction between annual discharge and temperature. Growth of early juveniles (age 1+ and 2+ years) exhibited a unimodal relationship with annual discharge, peaking near median annual discharge. Growth of late juveniles (3+ to 5+) and adults (>5+) increased with annual discharge, with the rate of increase being particularly high in adults, whose growth peaked during years with flooding. Years with very low annual discharge, as experienced during drought and under high abstraction, suppress growth rates of all Murray cod life‐stages. Unimodal relationships between growth and annual temperature were evident across all life stages. Contrary to expectations of the Temperature Size Rule, the annual air temperature at which maximum growth occurred increased with age. The stage‐specific response of Murray cod to annual discharge indicates that no single magnitude of annual discharge is optimal for cod populations, adding further weight to the case for maintaining and/or restoring flow variability in riverine ecosystems. With respect to climate change impacts, on balance our results indicate that the primary mechanism by which climate change threatens Murray cod growth is through alteration of river flows, not through warming annual mean temperatures per se.
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    Intraspecific variation in the growth and survival of juvenile fish exposed to Eucalyptus leachate
    Morrongiello, JR ; Bond, NR ; Crook, DA ; Wong, BBM (Wiley, 2013-10-01)
    Whilst changes in freshwater assemblages along gradients of environmental stress have been relatively well studied, we know far less about intraspecific variation to these same stressors. A stressor common in fresh waters worldwide is leachates from terrestrial plants. Leachates alter the physiochemical environment of fresh waters by lowering pH and dissolved oxygen and also releasing toxic compounds such as polyphenols and tannins, all of which can be detrimental to aquatic organisms. We investigated how chronic exposure to Eucalyptus leaf leachate affected the growth and survival of juvenile southern pygmy perch (Nannoperca australis) collected from three populations with different litter inputs, hydrology and observed leachate concentrations. Chronic exposure to elevated leachate levels negatively impacted growth and survival, but the magnitude of these lethal and sublethal responses was conditional on body size and source population. Bigger fish had increased survival at high leachate levels but overall slower growth rates. Body size also varied among populations and fish from the population exposed to the lowest natural leachate concentrations had the highest average stress tolerance. Significant intraspecific variation in both growth and survival caused by Eucalyptus leachate exposure indicates that the magnitude (but not direction) of these stress responses varies across the landscape. This raises the potential for leachate‐induced selection to operate at an among‐population scale. The importance of body size demonstrates that the timing of leachate exposure during ontogeny is central in determining the magnitude of biological response, with early life stages being most vulnerable. Overall, we demonstrate that Eucalyptus leachates are prevalent and potent selective agents that can trigger important sublethal impacts, beyond those associated with more familiar fish kills, and reiterate that dissolved organic carbon is more than just an energy source in aquatic environments.