MEPS 285:193-204 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps285193

Behavioural avoidance of acidified water by juveniles of four commercial fish and prawn species with migratory life stages

Frederieke J. Kroon*

NSW Fisheries, Port Stephens Fisheries Centre, Private Bag 1, Nelson Bay, New South Wales 2315, AustraliaPresent address: CSIRO Land and Water, Long Pocket Laboratories, 120 Meiers Road, Indooroopilly, Queensland 4068, Australia

ABSTRACT: Impacts on aquatic ecosystems resulting from acute exposure to acid sulfate soil discharge are well documented. However, less is known about the long-term impacts of chronic acid sulfate discharge. Such discharge may create barriers to movement, potentially affecting migration of fish and invertebrate species, including commercial species. Avoidance of such discharges by adults may affect spawning migrations, while similar behaviour by juveniles may affect migration to nursery habitats. As a result, the capacity of fish to access important habitats beyond the discharge point may be reduced with potential consequences for stock size. This study examined the possible existence of acid sulfate avoidance behaviour in juveniles of 3 commercial fish species and 1 commercial prawn species. Schools of 10 individuals were given a simultaneous choice between 2 different water qualities in paired channels of a laboratory stream, i.e. preference-avoidance situation. All species avoided acidified water, indicating that chronic acid sulfate discharge has the potential to affect migration of these species in the field. The pH levels avoided in these experiments were well within the magnitude exhibited by natural systems. Thus, chronic acid sulfate discharge in the field could have a detrimental impact on commercial and recreational fisheries.

KEY WORDS: Avoidance behaviour · Acid sulfate soils · Migration · Juveniles · Pagrus · Acanthopagrus · Macquaria · Metapenaeus

Full text in pdf format