Refuge-use strategies of stream fishes in response to extreme low flows

  • Davey A
  • Kelly D
  • Biggs B
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Low flows were simulated in an artificial stream to determine the
refuge-use strategies of two

benthic New Zealand fish species, Canterbury galaxias Galaxias vulgaris
and upland bullies

Gobiomorphus breviceps, and to investigate how refuge availability
and the rate of flow recession

affect the type and incidence of refuge use. When riffles dewatered,
upland bullies tended to

move to runs, whereas Canterbury galaxias showed a stronger propensity
to burrow into the

substratum. Both species showed a strong and consistent tendency to
move upstream when

emigrating from riffles. Burrowing was more frequent on coarse substrata
and during rapid flow

recessions. The incidence of surface stranding increased with the
rate of flow recession, but only

when interstitial refugia were unavailable, and was higher on gravel
than on cobble substrata.

The effect of rate of flow recession and substratum size on the probability
of stranding depended

upon the type of refuge-use strategy adopted by the fishes. Rate of
flow recession affected

upland bullies more than Canterbury galaxias, whereas substratum size
affected Canterbury

galaxias more than upland bullies. These results suggest that the
impact of disturbance is

contingent upon species-specific refuge-use strategies, which result
from interplay between

refuge availability, the nature of the disturbance and species’ behaviours
and morphologies.

When component species adopt contrasting refuge-use strategies, disturbance
events may not

consistently favour one species over another but rather inflict species-specific
mortality that

varies both temporally and spatially.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Behavioural response
  • Flow variability
  • Perturbation
  • Refuge habitat
  • Summer drought

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  • A. J.H. Davey

  • D. J. Kelly

  • B. J.F. Biggs

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