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Effects of climate change on estuarine fish communities of southwestern Australia

Hallett, C.S. and Tweedley, J.R. (2015) Effects of climate change on estuarine fish communities of southwestern Australia. In: ASFB Conference, 11 - 14 October, Sydney, Australia.


We present a synthesis of recent, observed trends in the climate of south-western Western Australia (SWWA) and a summary of future changes that are predicted for the region in coming decades. We then discuss both observed and predicted effects of climate change on the hydrology and physico-chemical environments of the microtidal estuaries of SWWA, and the ecological impacts of these changes on estuarine fish communities. Warming of marine and estuarine waters, sustained reductions in rainfall and changes in the timing, location and magnitude of extreme weather events are predicted. These are likely to cause changes in the timing and decreases in the magnitude of river flows; changes to the mouth status of bar-closed estuaries; ‘marinisation’ and ‘tropicalisation’ of estuarine waters, including increased hypersalinity in estuaries on the south coast; and changes in the extent, timing and persistence of water column stratification and hypoxia. Such changes are likely to have both positive and negative effects on the abundance, species richness and community composition of estuarine fish faunas in SWWA, with potential implications for estuarine and nearshore marine fisheries. We highlight the broad relevance of our predictions for many microtidal estuaries in other regions of the world with a Mediterranean climate, and conclude by briefly outlining some possible adaptation responses to the probable effects of climate change on the estuaries of SWWA.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Notes: Oral presentation
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