Importance of the riparian zone to the conservation and management of freshwater fish: a review

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Pusey, BJ
Arthington, AH
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The relationship between freshwater fish and the integrity of the riparian zone is reviewed with special emphasis on the fauna of northern Australia. Linkages between freshwater fish and riparian zone processes are diverse and important. The riparian zone occurs at the interface between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and it may, therefore, regulate the transfer of energy and material between these systems, as well as regulating the transmission of solar energy into the aquatic ecosystem. Riparian influences on light quantity, quality and shade in streams are discussed and predictions are made about the likely impacts associated with changes in light quality. Increased rates of transfer of thermal energy between the atmosphere and the aquatic environment in the absence of an intact riparian zone may potentially disrupt reproduction by desynchronizing the thermal regimen from regional factors, such as the flow regimen, as well as having direct effects on mortality rates, body morphology, disease resistance and metabolic rates. Impacts associated with changes in light quality range from increased egg and larval mortality due to increased ultraviolet (UV) B irradiation and a decreased ability to discriminate between potential mates to increased conspicuousness to predators. Increased insolation and proliferation of exotic pasture grasses, an increasing threat in northern Australia, are shown to have a range of impacts, including changes in habitat structure, food-web structure and the facilitation of invasion by exotic fish species. The interception of terrestrial sediments and nutrients by the riparian zone has important consequences for stream fish, maintaining habitat structure, water clarity and food-web structure. Coarse organic matter donated to the aquatic environment by the riparian zones has a large range of influences on stream habitat, which, in turn, affect biodiversity and a range of process, such as fish reproduction and predation. Terrestrial matter is also consumed directly by fish and may be a very important source of energy in some Australian systems and under certain circumstances. Attention to the linkages between fish and riparian systems is essential in efforts to rehabilitate degraded stream environments and to prevent further deterioration in freshwater fish populations in northern Australia.

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Marine and Freshwater Research
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© 2003 CSIRO. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
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