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Freshwater Flow and Fisheries Production in Estuarine and Coastal Systems: Where a Drop of Rain Is Not Lost

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This review presents a synopsis of the impacts of freshwater flow on fisheries production in estuarine and coastal systems, with particular emphasis on regional examples from eastern Australia and southern Africa. Freshwater flow impacts habitat availability, trophic interactions, and fishers’ harvesting behavior in estuarine and coastal systems. Seasonal and interannual variation in freshwater flow influences the distribution and abundance of fish and invertebrates through changes in growth, survival, and recruitment. Episodic flood and drought events have pronounced impacts on fisheries production due to rapid changes in physicochemical conditions modifying species richness and diversity. Many documented reductions in fisheries production have been attributed to river regulation modifying natural variation in freshwater flow. Protecting natural flow regimes is likely to be an effective management strategy to maintain the production of estuarine and coastal fisheries. Understanding the freshwater requirements of estuarine and coastal fisheries will become increasingly important as climate change modifies the hydrological cycle and as human population growth increases demand for water resources. One major challenge for scientists seeking to explore relationships between freshwater flow and fisheries production is to understand how variable flows influence resource availability, fishing activity, and the economic performance of commercial fisheries in estuarine and coastal systems.
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Keywords: climate change; fisheries production; freshwater flow; river regulation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Fisheries and Marine Environmental Research Facility, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences,University of New South Wales, NSW, Australia

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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