CASE STUDY:Carp spawning hotspots
Case study on the identification of carp spawningand recruitment hotspots in the Murray-DarlingBasin
Carp do not reproduce throughout entire river systems, and the vast majority of recruitment occurs at a relatively small number of locations
Carp have become thedominant species within the Murray–DarlingBasin (MDB) and an effective, integratedstrategy is needed to control them. An
important rst step of such a program is
to determine the status and biology ofcarp populations throughout the MDB, andso identify any weaknesses that offer anopportunity for enhanced control.A study in New South Wales (NSW) indicatedthat carp do not reproduce throughout entireriver systems, and that the majority of juvenile carp originate from a relatively smallnumber of locations. These sites are known as‘recruitment hotspots’. In NSW, carp hotspotsinclude important wetlands such as theMacquarie Marshes, Namoi Wetlands, GwydirWetlands and the Barmah–Millewa Forest.
One of the reasonsthat carp are such a successful invasivespecies is that they produce a large number oflive offspring. A mature female carp of 3–4 kgcan produce a million eggs.Carp have a short larval period where they are
susceptible to being ushed from spawninghabitats by high-ow events. Collecting larvae
that are drifting downstream during high
ows is a cost-effective method of assessing
the key sources of carp larvae within river
systems. Electroshing (the use of electricityto stun sh for capture, without killing them)is an efcient way of surveying and collectingjuvenile and adult sh after the larval period.
NSW researchers have been using both larval
drift studies and electroshing to identify carp
reproduction hotspots, or ‘source’ populations.These studies provide a better understandingof the spatial structure of carp populationsof the MDB by identifying populations thatcontribute most to recruitment. In turn, thisknowledge will help in the development ofan effective integrated carp managementstrategy.
Invasive Animals Cooperative ResearchCentre (IA CRC) research:
A project ofthe IA CRC’s predecessor (Pest Animal ControlCRC) found that 80%of carp recruitment in theNSW part of the MDB was from only four or
. However, a portion of NSWriver systems was not sampled under thatproject and it was considered important tocontinue the sampling program to completelycover all river systems in the MDB. Underthe subsequent IA CRC-funded project, thesampling was expanded to include the whole ofthe MDB, involving 26 locations in Queensland,33 in Victoria, 10 in South Australia andsix catchments in NSW (the Culgoa, Paroo,Castlereagh, Macquarie, Bogan and Lachlancatchments)
.The aims of the expanded hotspots projectwere to:
validate larval sampling as a method ofdetecting recruitment hotspots
provide data on variability in carp spawn-ing at hotspots at different times
identify the preferred areas for carp re-cruitment right across the MDB
assess the relationship between spawningand recruitment.The information would be used to producea model of carp abundance in the MDB thattakes account of the multiple sources of
recruitment — a true reection of the carp
population structure in the MDB.Data collection involved:
sampling larvae to identify hotspots ofcarp breeding
collecting DNA samples for genetic assess-ment
determining the carp sex ratio throughoutNSW
assessing when and where carp are in re-productive condition throughout NSW.
Carp eggs on net. Image: NSW Fisheries