Brief floodplain inundation provides growth and survival benefits to a young-of-year fish in an intermittent river threatened by water development

Oliver P. Pratt, Leah S. Beesley, Bradley J. Pusey, Daniel C. Gwinn, Chris S. Keogh, Michael M. Douglas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Riverine floodplains are highly productive habitats that often act as nurseries for fish but are threatened by flow regulation. The Fitzroy River in northern Australia is facing development, but uncertainty exists regarding the extent to which floodplain habitats deliver benefits to fish, particularly given the brevity of seasonal floodplain inundation. We investigated the growth rate of young-of-year bony bream (Nematalosa erebi) in main channel and ephemeral floodplain habitats using age derived from otolith daily increments. We also investigated potential mechanisms influencing growth and modelled the consequences of differential growth rate on survival. Our results revealed higher growth occurred exclusively on the floodplain and that zooplankton biomass was the best predictor of growth rate. Modelling indicated that elevated growth rate in high-growth floodplain pools (top 25th percentile) could translate into substantial increases in survivorship. The positive effect of zooplankton biomass on growth was moderated under highly turbid conditions. Temperature had a minor influence on growth, and only in floodplain habitats. Our results indicate ephemeral floodplain habitats can deliver substantial growth and survival benefits to young-of-year fish even when floodplain inundation is brief. This study highlights the need to ensure that water policy safeguards floodplain habitats due to their important ecological role.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17725
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Cite this