Where do fish go in a drought?

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In a severe drought, rivers and streams dry up, but fish and other freshwater organisms need to survive if they are going to be around to repopulate the stream in the next wet period. Where do they go?

They take refuge in places that stay adequately wet for months or years until the stream reconnects: for example, in pools or waterholes within stream channels or on floodplains, or in streambed sediments or bank burrows.

An eWater CRC team led by Dr Nick Bond of Monash University is tracking the impacts of drought on inland rivers in Victoria and southern Queensland, and learning what it is that enables some riverine ecosystems to be better than others at re-establishing their populations after drought. Their particular focus is on small streams in the Goulburn catchment and on the Moonie River.

Image: Two refuge pools.

The information is intended to guide efforts to manage refuge habitats to protect (and restore) the resistance and resilience of aquatic ecosystems to drought and other large-scale disturbances. The team’s findings also feed into eWater’s modelling and tool-building activities that support catchment management and restoration.