A multi-scale GIS and hydrodynamic modelling approach to fish passage assessment: clarence and Shoalhaven Rivers, NSW Australia



Publication Details

Bonetti, R. M., Reinfelds, I. V., Butler, G. L., Walsh, C. T., Broderick, T. J. & Chisholm, L. A. (2016). A multi-scale GIS and hydrodynamic modelling approach to fish passage assessment: clarence and Shoalhaven Rivers, NSW Australia. Geomorphology, 260 79-90.


Natural barriers such as waterfalls, cascades, rapids and riffles limit the dispersal and in-stream range of migratory fish, yet little is known of the interplay between these gradient dependent landforms, their hydraulic characteristics and flow rates that facilitate fish passage. The resurgence of dam construction in numerous river basins world-wide provides impetus to the development of robust techniques for assessment of the effects of downstream flow regime changes on natural fish passage barriers and associated consequences as to the length of rivers available to migratory species. This paper outlines a multi-scale technique for quantifying the relative magnitude of natural fish passage barriers in river systems and flow rates that facilitate passage by fish. First, a GIS-based approach is used to quantify channel gradients for the length of river or reach under investigation from a high resolution DEM, setting the magnitude of identified passage barriers in a longer context (tens to hundreds of km). Second, LiDAR, topographic and bathymetric survey-based hydrodynamic modelling is used to assess flow rates that can be regarded as facilitating passage across specific barriers identified by the river to reach scale gradient analysis. Examples of multi-scale approaches to fish passage assessment for flood-flow and low-flow passage issues are provided from the Clarence and Shoalhaven Rivers, NSW, Australia. In these river systems, passive acoustic telemetry data on actual movements and migrations by Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) provide a means of validating modelled assessments of flow rates associated with successful fish passage across natural barriers. Analysis of actual fish movements across passage barriers in these river systems indicates that two dimensional hydraulic modelling can usefully quantify flow rates associated with the facilitation of fish passage across natural barriers by a majority of individual fishes for use in management decisions regarding environmental or instream flows.

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