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Baseline study on the fish and freshwater crayfish fauna in the Blackwood River and its tributaries receiving discharge from the Yarragadee Aquifer

Morgan, D.L. and Beatty, S.J. (2005) Baseline study on the fish and freshwater crayfish fauna in the Blackwood River and its tributaries receiving discharge from the Yarragadee Aquifer. Murdoch University. Centre for Fish & Fisheries Research, Western Australia.

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    Abstract

    Water from the Yarragadee Aquifer surfaces in Poison Gully and Milyeannup Brook, and maintains flow in these Blackwood River tributaries throughout the year. It also enters Layman Brook during winter and spring, yet this stream dries during summer. The aim of this study was to provide baseline information on the fish and freshwater crayfish fauna in these Yarragadee aquifer-fed tributaries, and compare them to both those upstream tributaries devoid of any flow from the aquifer, and those tributaries entering the Blackwood River immediately downstream of the aquifer discharge area. A comparison was also made of the fish fauna of the Blackwood River main channel that receives flow from the Yarragadee Aquifer to a number of main channel sites upstream of the discharge area, i.e. main channel sites that do not receive any flow from the Yarragadee.

    There was a significant difference between the fish fauna associated with main channel sites when compared to tributaries and there were substantial differences in the fauna of the downstream and upstream main channel sites. Main channel sites downstream of the Yarragadee Aquifer discharge area had a much higher diversity of fish and freshwater crayfish than main channel sites upstream of the discharge area. For example, within the main channel sites that receive summer input from the Yarragadee, 11 species of fish and 4 species crayfish were captured compared to 4 species of fish and 2 species of crayfish upstream of the discharge zone. Furthermore, the 4 species of fish in the main channel in the upper riverine part of the study area were all halotolerant, whereas most of the additional species present in the sites in the lower section of the river tolerate only low salinities.

    A number of species found in the main channel are absent from the tributary sites sampled and vice versa. For example, Freshwater Cobbler, Western Hardyheads, Swan River Gobies and South-western Gobies were only captured in the main channel, while Mud Minnows and Balston’s Pygmy Perch were restricted to tributaries.

    The tributaries that receive direct flows from the Yarragadee Aquifer, i.e. Milyeannup Brook and Poison Gully provide important refuges for Balston’s Pygmy Perch and Mud Minnows. Ninety percent of all Balston’s Pygmy Perch were found in Milyeannup Brook and with the exception of one site in the tributaries upstream of the Yarragadee (Leederville Aquifer sites), all Mud Minnows were only found in excavated waterpoints.

    Water extraction and the lowering of water tables have the potential to reduce surface water in Milyeannup Brook and Poison Gully and may lead to the elimination of Balston’s Pygmy Perch from the Blackwood River. It may also impact on aestivating fish and freshwater crayfish by drying out the substrates that they burrow into. The main channel section of the Blackwood River that receives flow from the Yarragadee Aquifer supports a number of recreational fisheries, the most important being the Marron fishery, and reduced freshwater input from the Yarragadee Aquifer may comprise these fisheries. Reduced inflow of freshwater could potentially lead to an increase in salinity of this part of the river and may be intolerable to a number of species (see Discussion).

    Publication Type: Report
    Murdoch Affiliation: Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
    Series Name: Murdoch University Report to the Department of Environment, Government of Western Australia.
    Publisher: Murdoch University. Centre for Fish & Fisheries Research
    Copyright: 2005 Murdoch University. Centre for Fish & Fisheries
    URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/5947
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