Floodplain inundation in rivers is thought to enhance fish recruitment by providing a suitable spawning environment and abundant food and habitat for larvae. Although this model has not previously been tested in Australian rivers, it is often extrapolated to fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin. Fortnightly sampling of larvae and juveniles was conducted in the unregulated Ovens River floodplain during spring-summer of 1999 (non-flood year) and 2000 (flood year). The only species that increased in larval abundance during or shortly after flooding was an introduced species, common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Additionally, the peak abundance of larvae on the floodplain occurred during a rapidly declining hydrograph under low flow conditions in isolated billabongs and anabranches. The low use of the inundated floodplain for recruitment contradicts previous models. We propose a model of the optimum environmental conditions required for use of the inundated floodplain for fish recruitment. The model suggests that the notion of the flood pulse alone controlling fish recruitment is too simplistic to describe all strategies within a system. Rather, the life history adaptations in the fauna of the system and aspects of the hydrological regime such as duration and timing of inundation will control the response of a river's fish fauna to flooding.
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