Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 341–354 | Cite as

Population dynamics of invading freshwater fish: common carp (Cyprinus carpio) in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia

  • David M. Forsyth
  • John D. Koehn
  • Darryl I. MacKenzie
  • Ivor G. Stuart
Original Paper


There is much interest in managing invasive freshwater fish, but little is known about the dynamics of these populations following establishment. We used annual commercial catch-per-unit-effort data at multiple spatio-temporal scales to test hypotheses about the population dynamics of invading common carp (Cyprinus carpio) in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. We hypothesised that following establishment of the Boolara strain of this species in the Murray-Darling Basin in 1961/1962: (1) carp would undergo exponential or logistic-type population growth; and (2) carp population growth rates would be highest following over-bank flood events that provided extensive off-channel spawning and feeding habitats. The logistic (w i  = 0.73) and delayed-logistic (w i  = 0.27) models best explained the population dynamics of common carp in the Murray-Darling Basin during 1962/1963–2001/2002; there was negligible support for exponential growth (w i  ≤ 0.01). Although we cannot exclude the possibility that floods may have been important in the early years of the invasion we found little evidence that carp population growth rates increased following flood events. Our logistic-type model-based estimates of the maximum annual population growth rate (r m; 0.378 and 0.384) indicate that >0.315 or 0.319 of the adult population would need to be removed annually to achieve eradication. We conclude that the rapid spread of the Boolara strain of common carp through the Murray-Darling Basin was facilitated by high initial population growth rates. More generally, we suggest that the lag period between an invader establishing and increasing to high abundances will be characterised by logistic-type population growth. We encourage others to investigate the long-term population dynamics of invading freshwater fish using time series and models such as those reported here.


Biological invasions Catch-per-unit-effort Exponential population growth Invasive fish Logistic model Murray River Pest fish Population growth rate Rate of increase 



This study was funded by Australian Research Council Linkage Project LP0667891. We thank Simon Nicol (Secretariat of the Pacific Community) for initial discussions and encouragement, and Samantha Dawes (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries) for providing the commercial catch and effort data. Mark Burrell (New South Wales Department of Water and Energy) kindly provided the river flow data, and Paula Baker (Victorian Department of Primary Industries), Malcom Knight (South Australian Research and Development Institute) and Jonathon McPhail (Department of Primary Industries and Resources of South Australia) answered our many queries about data. Lauren Dodd and Ruth Lennie (Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research) assisted with data entry. Peter Caley (Bureau of Rural Sciences) advised on the logistic-type population models and Reuben Armstrong drew Fig. 3. We are also grateful to Keith Bell (K&C Fisheries) and Bruce McBeath (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment) for sharing their knowledge of the commercial carp industry. Comments by Peter Caley, Lindy Lumsden, Cang Hui and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved this paper.

Supplementary material

10530_2012_290_MOESM1_ESM.xls (28 kb)
Online Resource 1 Data used in our analyses of common carp population dynamics in the Murray-Darling Basin rivers, 1962/63–2001/02 (Microsoft® Office Excel spreadsheet; OnlineResource1.xls) (XLS 27 kb)
10530_2012_290_MOESM2_ESM.xls (26 kb)
Online Resource 2 Data used in our analyses of common carp population dynamics in six New South Wales rivers, 1984/85–2001/02 (Microsoft® Office Excel spreadsheet; OnlineResource2.xls) (XLS 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Forsyth
    • 1
  • John D. Koehn
    • 1
  • Darryl I. MacKenzie
    • 2
  • Ivor G. Stuart
    • 3
  1. 1.Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental ResearchDepartment of Sustainability and EnvironmentHeidelbergAustralia
  2. 2.Proteus Wildlife Research ConsultantsDunedinNew Zealand
  3. 3.Kingfisher ResearchNorth ElthamAustralia

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