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The effect of habitat and environmental history on otolith chemistry of barramundi Lates calcarifer in estuarine populations of a regulated tropical river

Milton, D. and Halliday, I. and Sellin, M. and Marsh, R. and Staunton-Smith, J. and Woodhead, J. (2008) The effect of habitat and environmental history on otolith chemistry of barramundi Lates calcarifer in estuarine populations of a regulated tropical river. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 78 (2). pp. 301-315.

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Article Link(s): http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2007.12.009

Publisher URL: http://www.elsevier.com

Abstract

We examine the microchemistry of otoliths of cohorts of a fished shed population of the large catadromous fish, barramundi Lates calcarifer from the estuary of a large tropical river. Barramundi from the estuary of the large, heavily regulated Fitzroy River, north eastern Australia were analysed by making transects of 87Sr/86Sr isotope and trace metal/Ca ratios from the core to the outer edge. Firstly, we examined the Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca, Mg/Ca and Mn/Ca and 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratios in otoliths of barramundi tagged in either freshwater or estuarine habitats that were caught by the commercial fishery in the estuary. We used 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratios to identify periods of freshwater residency and assess whether trace metal/Ca ratios varied between habitats. Only Sr/Ca consistently varied between known periods of estuarine or freshwater residency. The relationships between trace metal/Ca and river flow, salinity, temperature were examined in fish tagged and recaptured in the estuary. We found weak and inconsistent patterns in relationships between these variables in the majority of fish. These results suggest that both individual movement history within the estuary and the scale of environmental monitoring were reducing our ability to detect any patterns. Finally, we examined fish in the estuary from two dominant age cohorts (4 and 7 yr old) before and after a large flood in 2003 to ascertain if the flood had enabled fish from freshwater habitats to migrate to the estuary. There was no difference in the proportion of fish in the estuary that had accessed freshwater after the flood. Instead, we found that larger individuals with each age cohort were more likely to have spent a period in freshwater. This highlights the need to maintain freshwater flows in rivers. About half the fish examined had accessed freshwater habitats before capture. Of these, all had spent at least their first two months in marine salinity waters before entering freshwater and some did not enter freshwater until four years of age. This contrasts with the results of several previous studies in other parts of the range that found that access to freshwater swamps by larval barramundi was important for enhanced population productivity and recruitment.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:© Elsevier Ltd.
Keywords:Barramundi; estuarine habitats; Fitzroy River; isotope ratios.
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery for individual species
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery research
Deposited On:02 Feb 2009 03:57
Last Modified:07 Sep 2010 07:32

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