, Volume 572, Issue 1, pp 11–31 | Cite as

A Large-scale, Hierarchical Approach for Assessing Habitat Associations of Fish Assemblages in Large Dryland Rivers

  • Craig A. Boys
  • Martin C. Thoms


Multiple-scale assessments of fish-habitat associations are limited despite the fact that riverine fish assemblages are influenced by factors operating over a range of spatial scales. A method for assessing fish-habitat assemblages at multiple scales is proposed and tested in a large Australian dryland river, the Barwon–Darling River. Six discrete mesohabitat types (large wood, smooth bank, irregular bank, matted bank, mid-channel and deep pool) nested within 10 km long river reaches were sampled. Individual reaches were, in turn, nested within four larger geomorphological zones, previously identified along the river. Fish assemblages varied significantly between mesohabitat types and at different spatial scales. Golden perch (Macquaria ambigua), Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio) were strongly associated with large wood, but golden perch and Murray cod exhibited higher habitat specificity than carp. Bony herring (Nematalosa erebi) were more common in shallow edgewater habitats. At the river-scale, regional differences in the fish assemblage occurred at scales closely corresponding to geomorphological zones and these differences were associated with changes in the relative abundance of species rather than the addition or replacement of species. The proposed hierarchical framework improves the efficiency of fish surveys in large rivers by viewing meso-scale fish-habitat associations in the context of larger-scale geomorphological processes.


fish-habitat associations functional process zones hierarchy theory spatial scaling Murray–Darling Basin 


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© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Water Research Centre, Cooperative Research Centre for FreshwaterUniversity of CanberraAustralia
  2. 2.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesPort Stephens Fisheries CentreTaylors BeachAustralia

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