Effects of urban development and habitat alterations on the distribution and abundance of native and exotic freshwater fish in the Brisbane region, Queensland



The distribution of freshwater fish in creeks throughout the Brisbane region was determined by a survey carried out in 1977–78. Seventeen native and six exotic species were recorded in 55 creeks. Sixteen native and four exotic species were collected in a more restricted survey of central Brisbane in 1981. Urban development and the establishment of exotic plants have resulted in substantial changes to the aquatic environment in many of the creeks surveyed. Exotic grasses, especially para grass (Brachiaria mutica) have reduced the extent of free water by growing partly into stream channels. Floating exotic plants blanketed some stream reaches. Native aquatic macrophytes have declined, apparently due to dredging, siltation and other disturbances. These changes have affected the distribution and abundance of native and exotic fish. Native species with a preference for open water and beds of aquatic plants have declined in creeks overgrown by para grass and floating plants. Melanotaenia fluviatilis, Retropinna semoni, Pseudomugil signifer, Craterocephalus stercusmuscarum and Ambassis nigripinnis have been affected. Para grass and floating plants have not affected the range or abundance of Hypseleotris galii, H. compressus and Mogurnda adspersa. Gambusia affinis and Xiphophorus helleri have been advantaged by expansion of their preferred habitat type - the edges of pools where exotic grasses have grown partly into the water. The effect of exotic fish on native species is unclear. There was a correlation between large numbers of G. affinis and small numbers of H. galii and M. fluviatilis. Correlations could result from predatory or competitive interactions between species. Alternatively, correlations could be due entirely to the effects of habitat alterations on exotic and native species. However, H. galii was evidently not disadvantaged by the habitat alterations studied. Thus there may be a complex interaction between this species and G. affinis. There was no evidence that X. helleri had affected the range or abundance of native species.