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A “cray‐zy” dam solution for an iconic species

Beatty, S.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2620-2826 and Morgan, D.L. (2019) A “cray‐zy” dam solution for an iconic species. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 17 (3). p. 184.

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The decline in freshwater crayfishes is occurring on a global scale. A gastronomic delicacy and a Western Australian freshwater icon, Cherax cainii (the smooth marron) is the third largest freshwater crayfish in the world and has been an important food source for the human inhabitants of southwestern Australia for tens of thousands of years. However, the species has disappeared from much of its historical range due to anthropogenic salinization of waterways, which has prompted interest and investigations into restoring the smooth marron's habitat.

Severe and ongoing flow declines due to climate change‐related drought threaten to further exacerbate past environmental degradation of the region's watersheds. This will make the existing network of artificial reservoirs almost functionally obsolete as primary sources of drinking water but will not lead to the network's total elimination. Currently, the smooth marron thrives in these freshwater reservoirs. Harnessing these impoundments as arks to support the region's highly endemic and imperiled aquatic fauna represents a tangible, albeit controversial, way to maintain aquatic biodiversity in an area largely devoid of dam‐impacted migratory species. Habitat restoration strategies, such as providing logs and wood for shelter to protect the smooth marron from predation by birds and alien fishes, will be a crucial part of the solution. Are we willing to similarly prioritize the restoration of anthropogenic aquatic habitats and natural – though severely degraded – systems to conserve such iconic aquatic species? Such decisions regarding the allocation of restoration efforts remain hotly debated.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
Publisher: Ecological Society of America
Copyright: © 2019 The Ecological Society of America
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