, Volume 673, Issue 1, pp 63–77 | Cite as

Response of two-spined blackfish Gadopsis bispinosus to short-term flow fluctuations in an upland Australian stream

  • B. T. Broadhurst
  • J. G. Dyer
  • B. C. Ebner
  • J. D. Thiem
  • P. A. Pridmore
Primary Research Paper


Environmental flows are applied to regulated rivers, predominantly with the aim of benefiting native fauna. However, the outcomes for biodiversity and the mechanisms that underpin changes due to these manipulations are poorly understood. We examined the effects of elevated water release, of the magnitude used for riffle maintenance, on the movement and habitat use of the locally-threatened two-spined blackfish, Gadopsis bispinosus, in the Cotter River, a regulated upland stream in south-eastern Australia. We compared the behaviour of radio-tagged individuals during baseline flow conditions (0.12 m3 s−1) and during elevated flow releases (1.74 m3 s−1). Eight individuals (196 ± 8 mm TL) were radio-tracked at one site over 22 days, and six individuals (180 ± 5 mm TL) were monitored by fixed telemetry stations at a second site for 1 month. At both the sites, two-spined blackfish were nocturnal and occupied small linear ranges (23 ± 6 m). They preferentially used pools, but also used runs and riffles. Elevated discharge did not significantly affect movement, activity or dispersal of two-spined blackfish. Two individuals utilised inundated vegetation during high flow. Despite a small number of behavioural changes, there was no response to elevated flow at the population level. It is likely that the benthic nature of this species precludes its behaviour being affected by a 15-fold increase in-stream discharge. However, the indirect effects of flows of this magnitude on two-spined blackfish, and their responses to discharges of greater magnitude, remain to be investigated.


Environmental flows Flow response Gadopsis bispinosus Radio-telemetry Home-range Diel activity 



This work was principally funded by the National Action Plan for Water Quality and Salinity, the Natural Heritage Trust and the ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services. Special thanks to Rhian Clear who put in long hours radio-tracking. Mark Jekabsons, Mark Lintermans, Danswell Starrs, Dylan Ebner and Lesley Ishiyama assisted with radio-tracking. Thank you to ACTEW and particularly Jonathan Thirkell for administering the flows used as the basis for the experiment. Michael Shultz (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts) assisted in guiding and developing the project. Warren Paul assisted with data analysis. Thank you to ACT Parks, Conservation and Lands for access to study sites and communication support. Danny Wright assisted with figure preparation. This manuscript was improved by comments from two anonymous reviewers and the Freshwater writing group at the University of Canberra. This study was conducted with ethics approval (University of Canberra Ethics Committee, CEAE 05/10) and was conducted in Ngunnawal country.


  1. Abell, R., M. L. Thieme, C. Revenga, M. Bryer, M. Kottelat, N. Bogutskaya, B. Coad, N. Mandrak, S. C. Balderas, W. Bussing, M. L. J. Stiassny, P. Skelton, G. R. Allen, P. Unmack, A. Naseka, R. Ng, N. Sindorf, J. Robertson, E. Armijo, J. V. Higgins, T. J. Heibel, E. Wikramanayake, D. Olson, H. L. Lopez, R. E. Reis, J. G. Lundberg, M. H. S. Perez & P. Petry, 2008. Freshwater ecoregions of the world: a new map of biogeographic units for freshwater biodiversity conservation. Bioscience 58: 403–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ACT Government, 1999a. Environmental Flow Guidlines. Environment ACT, Canberra.Google Scholar
  3. ACT Government, 1999b. Two-Spined Blackfish (Gadopsis bispinosus): A Vulnerable Species. Action Plan No. 11. Environment ACT, Canberra.Google Scholar
  4. ACT Government, 2006. Environmental Flow Guidelines. Environment ACT, Canberra: 47 pp.Google Scholar
  5. ACT Government, 2007. Ribbons of Life: ACT Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy. Action Plan No. 29. Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment, Canberra.Google Scholar
  6. Alanärä, A. & E. Brännäs, 1997. Diurnal and nocturnal feeding activity in Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54: 2894–2900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alonso-González, C., J. Gortázar, D. Baeza Sanz & D. García de Jalón, 2008. Dam function rules based on brown trout flow requirements: design of environmental flow regimes in regulated streams. Hydrobiologia 609: 253–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Angradi, T. R. & J. S. Griffiths, 1990. Diel feeding chronology and diet selection of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Henry’s Fork and the Snake River, Idaho. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 47: 199–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Arthington, A. H. & J. M. Zalucki, 1998. Comparative Evaluation of Environmental Flow Assessment Techniques: Review of Methods. Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.Google Scholar
  10. Arthington, A. H., S. E. Bunn, N. L. Poff & R. J. Naiman, 2006. The challenge of providing environmental flow rules to sustain river ecosystems. Ecological Applications 16: 1311–1318.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brett, J. R., 1965. The relation of size to rate of oxygen consumption and sustained swimming speed of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka). Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 22: 1491–1501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brittain, J. E. & T. J. Eikeland, 1988. Invertebrate drift: a review. Hydrobiologia 166: 77–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Broadhurst, B. & B. Ebner, 2007. An improved technique for small-scale radio-tracking of crayfish and benthic fishes in upland streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 136: 423–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Broadhurst, B. T., B. C. Ebner & R. C. Clear, 2009. Radio-tagging flexible-bodied fish: temporary confinement enhances radio-tag retention. Marine and Freshwater Research 60: 356–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bunn, S. E. & A. H. Arthington, 2002. Basic principles and ecological consequences of altered flow regimes for aquatic biodiversity. Environmental Management 30: 492–507.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bunn, S. E. & P. M. Davies, 2000. Biological processes in running waters and their implications for the assessment of ecological integrity. Hydrobiologia 422(423): 61–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chester, H. & R. Norris, 2006. Dams and flow in the Cotter River, Australia: effects on instream trophic structure and benthic metabolism. Hydrobiologia 572: 275–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clear, R., B. Broadhurst & M. Lintermans, 2007. Fish Monitoring Program to Assess the Effectiveness of Environmental Flows in the Cotter and Queanbeyan Rivers in 2005 and 2007. Parks, Conservation and Lands, Canberra.Google Scholar
  19. Cocherell, S. A., D. E. Cocherell, G. J. Jones, J. B. Miranda, L. C. Thompson, J. J. Chech & A. P. Klimley Jr., 2010. Rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss energetic responses to pulsed flows in the American River, California, assessed by electromyogram telemetry. Environmental Biology of Fishes 90: 29–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. CRCFE, 2003. Environmental Flows in the Queanbeyan and Cotter Rivers During Drought. ACT Environment Protection Agency, Canberra.Google Scholar
  21. Crook, D. A., 2004. Movements associated with home-range establishment by two species of lowland river fish. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 61: 2183–2193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. David, B. O. & G. P. Closs, 2002. Behavior of a stream-dwelling fish before, during, and after high-discharge events. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 131: 762–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dobson, G. P. & J. Baldwin, 1982. Regulation of blood-oxygen affinity in the Australian blackfish Gadopsis marmoratus Richardson. II Thermal acclimation. Journal of Experimental Biology 99: 245–254.Google Scholar
  24. Dyer, F. J. & M. C. Thoms, 2006. Managing river flows for hydraulic diversity: an example of an upland regulated gravel-bed river. River Research and Applications 22: 257–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ebner, B. & M. Lintermans, 2007. Fish passage, movement requirements and habitat use for Macquarie perch. Final report to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia. Parks, Conservation and Lands, Canberra: 139 pp.Google Scholar
  26. Ebner, B. C. & J. D. Thiem, 2009. Monitoring by telemetry reveals differences in movement and survival following hatchery or wild rearing of an endangered fish. Marine and Freshwater Research 60: 45–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ebner, B., R. Clear, S. Godschalx & M. Beitzel, 2009a. In-stream behaviour of threatened fishes and their food organisms based on remote video monitoring. Aquatic Ecology 43: 569–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ebner, B. C., L. Johnston & M. Lintermans, 2009b. Radio-tagging and tracking of translocated trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis: Percichthyidae) in an upland river. Marine and Freshwater Research 60: 346–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Elliott, J. M., 1967. Food of trout (Salmo trutta) in a Dartmoor stream. Journal of Applied Ecology 4: 59–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Geist, D. R., R. S. Brown, V. Cullinan, S. R. Brink, K. Lepla, P. Bates & J. A. Chandler, 2005. Movement, swimming speed, and oxygen consumption of juvenile white sturgeon in response to changing flow, water temperature, and light level in the Snake River, Idaho. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 134: 803–816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gerking, S. D., 1953. Evidence for the concepts of home range and territory in stream fishes. Ecology 34: 347–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Grant, J. W. A., 1997. Territoriality. In Godin, J.-G. J. (ed.), Behavioural Ecology of Teleost Fishes. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 81–103.Google Scholar
  33. Hearn, W. E., 1987. Interspecific competition and habitat segregation among stream-dwelling trout and salmon: a review. Fisheries 12: 24–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoar, W. S., 1942. Diurnal variations in feeding activity of young salmon and trout. Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 6: 90–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Khan, M. T., T. A. Khan & M. E. Wilson, 2004. Habitat use and movement of river blackfish (Gadopsis marmoratus R.) in a highly modified Victorian stream, Australia. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 13: 285–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. King, A., K. A. Ward, P. O’Connor, D. Green, Z. Tonkin & J. Mahoney, 2010. Adaptive management of an environmental watering event to enhance native fish spawning and recruitment. Freshwater Biology 55: 17–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Koehn, J. D., 1990. Distribution and conservation status of the two-spined blackfish Gadopsis bispinosus in Victoria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 102: 97–103.Google Scholar
  38. Koehn, J. D., J. A. McKenzie, D. J. O’Mahony, S. J. Nicol, J. P. O’Connor & W. G. O’Connor, 2009. Movements of Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) in a large Australian lowland river. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 18: 594–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Koster, W. M. & D. A. Crook, 2008. Diurnal and nocturnal movements of river blackfish (Gadopsis marmoratus) in a south-eastern Australian upland stream. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 17: 146–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kramer, D. L. & M. R. Chapman, 1999. Implications of fish home range size and relocation for marine reserve function. Environmental Biology of Fishes 55: 65–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lintermans, M., 1998. The ecology of the two-spined blackfish Gadopsis bispinosus (Pisces: Gadopsidae). Unpublished M. Sc. Thesis. School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra: 219 pp.Google Scholar
  42. Lintermans, M., 2000. The status of fish in the Australian Capital Territory: a review of current knowledge and management requirements. Technical report no. 15. Environment ACT, Canberra: 108 pp.Google Scholar
  43. Lintermans, M., 2005. Environmental flows in the Cotter River, ACT, and the response on the threatened fish species Macquaria australasica and Gadopsis bispinosus in 2003 and 2004. Environment ACT, Canberra.Google Scholar
  44. Lintermans, M., 2007. Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin: An Introductory Guide. Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Canberra: 157 pp.Google Scholar
  45. Lyon, J. P. & J. P. O’Connor, 2008. Smoke on the water: can riverine fish populations recover following a catastrophic fire-related sediment slug? Austral Ecology 33: 794–806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maddock, I., M. Thoms, K. Jonson, F. Dyer & M. Lintermans, 2004. Identifying the influence of channel morphology on physical habitat availability for native fish: application to the two-spined blackfish (Gadopsis bispinosus) in the Cotter River, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 55: 173–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Makiguchi, Y., L. Y. Liao, Y. Konno, H. Nii, K. Nakao, J. C. Gwo, H. Onozato, Y. S. Huang & H. Ueda, 2009. Site fidelity of and habitat use by the Formosan landlocked salmon (Oncorhynchus masou formosanus) during typhoon season in Chichiawan Stream, Taiwan as assessed by nano-tag radio telemetry. Zoological Studies 48: 460–467.Google Scholar
  48. Murchie, K. J. & K. E. Smokorowski, 2004. Relative activity of brook trout and walleyes in response to flow in a regulated river. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 24: 1050–1057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Murchie, K. J., K. P. E. Hair, C. E. Pullen, T. D. Redpath, H. R. Stephens & S. J. Cooke, 2008. Fish response to modified flow regimes in regulated rivers: Research methods, effects and opportunities. River Research and Applications 24: 197–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Nichols, S., R. Norris, W. Maher & M. Thoms, 2006. Ecological effects of serial impoundment on the Cotter River, Australia. Hydrobiologia 572: 255–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Norris, R. & S. Nichols, 2011. Environmental flows: achieving ecological outcomes in variable environments. In Grafton, Q. & K. Hussey (eds), Water Resources Planning and Management. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 331–349.Google Scholar
  52. O’Connor, J. P. & B. P. Zampatti, 2006. Spawning season and site location of Gadopsis bispinosus Sanger (Pisces: Gadopsidae) in a montane stream of southeastern Australia. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 130: 227–232.Google Scholar
  53. O’Connor, J. P., D. J. O’Mahony & J. M. O’Mahony, 2005. Movements of Macquaria ambigua, in the Murray River, south-eastern Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 66: 392–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ottaway, E. M. & A. Clarke, 1981. A preliminary investigation into the vulnerability of young trout (Salmo trutta L.) and Atlantic salmon (S. Salar L.) to downstream displacement by high velocities. Journal of Fish Biology 19: 135–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Poff, N. L., J. D. Allan, M. B. Bain, J. R. Karr, K. L. Prestegaard, B. D. Richter, R. E. Sparks & J. C. Stromberg, 1997. The natural flow regime. Bioscience 47: 769–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Power, M. E., A. Sun, G. Parker, W. E. Dietrich & J. T. Wootton, 1995. Hydraulic food-chain models. Bioscience 45: 159–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Richter, B. D., A. T. Warner, J. L. Meyer & K. Lutz, 2006. A collaborative and adaptive process for developing environmental flow recommendations. River Research and Applications 22: 297–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sanger, A. C., 1990. Aspects of the life history of the two-spined blackfish Gadopsis bispinosus in King Parrot Creek Victoria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 102: 89–96.Google Scholar
  59. Scruton, D. A., C. Pennell, L. M. N. Ollerhead, K. Alfredsen, M. Stickler, A. Harby, M. Robertson, K. D. Clarke & L. J. LeDrew, 2008. A synopsis of ‘hydropeaking’ studies on the response of juvenile Atlantic salmon to experimental flow alteration. Hydrobiologia 609: 263–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Simpson, R. R. & A. J. Mapleston, 2002. Movements and habitat use by the endangered Australian freshwater Mary River cod, Maccullochella peelii mariensis. Environmental Biology of Fishes 65: 401–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stanford, J. A., J. V. Ward, W. J. Liss, C. A. Frissell, R. N. Williams, J. A. Lichatowich & C. C. Coutant, 1996. A general approach for restoration of regulated rivers. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management 12: 391–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tharme, R. E., 2003. A global perspective on environmental flow assessment: emerging trends in the development and application of environmental flow methodologies for rivers. River Research and Applications 19: 397–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thiem, J. D., B. C. Ebner & B. T. Broadhurst, 2008. Diel activity of the endangered trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) in the Murrumbidgee River. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 129: 167–173.Google Scholar
  64. Thiem, J. D., B. C. Ebner & R. C. Clear, 2010. Validating variation in radio-signal strength as an index of aquatic fauna activity. Australian Journal of Zoology 58: 50–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Walker, K. F., 1985. A review of the ecological effects of river regulation in Australia. Hydrobiologia 125: 111–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Winter, J., 1996. Advances in underwater biotelemetry. In Murphy, B. & D. Willis (eds), Fisheries Techniques. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD: 555–590.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. T. Broadhurst
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. G. Dyer
    • 3
    • 4
  • B. C. Ebner
    • 1
    • 5
  • J. D. Thiem
    • 1
    • 6
  • P. A. Pridmore
    • 3
  1. 1.Parks, Conservation & LandsTerritory & Municipal ServicesCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Applied EcologyUniversity of CanberraBruceAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Management and EcologyLa Trobe UniversityWodongaAustralia
  4. 4.School of Environmental SciencesCharles Sturt UniversityAluburyAustralia
  5. 5.Australian Rivers InstituteGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  6. 6.Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations