Lake Eyre Basin Rivers 52 waterholes and their floodplains has been implicated in recruitment failure of yellowbelly in the upper Murray–Darling Basin (Balcombe et al. 2011). Although flooding is unpredictable in frequency, extent and duration in Cooper Creek, floods underpin similar processes to the predictable annual floods of tropical and subtropical floodplain rivers (Junk et al. 1989 Welcomme et al. 2006). Floods also enhance recruitment of frogs, turtles and waterbirds and support the high levels of pasture production that underpin the vitality and viability of the pastoral industry in dryland catchments of western Queensland (Morrish 1998 see Chapters 10, 11 and 17). Regulating, dampening or eliminating occasional large floods or smaller channel flows undermines the resilience of arid-zone ecosystems, and has been disastrous for the fisheries of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Mesopotamian Marshes, Lake Mono in California and the Macquarie Marshes in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia (Kingsford et al. 2006). Conclusion We have substantially increased our understanding of arid-zone rivers through research and monitoring in Cooper Creek and other rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin. Fish are adapted to the extreme natural flow variability of floodplain rivers in the Australian arid zone, where the natural processes driving population booms and busts are broadly consistent with other studies in dryland floodplain rivers (Welcomme et al. 2006). Erratic floods and long dry spells underpin the spectacular boom and bust dynamics so characteristic of Cooper Creek fishes. Maintenance of natural flow variability, sequential flood pulses, complex habitat mosaics, floodplain-channel connectivity and environmental flows for valued species are key management principles for arid-zone rivers (Balcombe et al. 2005 Larned et al. 2010 Sheldon et al. 2010). Challenges for the future are to avoid developments that threaten native fishes, especially alterations to naturally variable flow patterns, habitat diversity, connectivity and water quality. Wise use of these complex, dynamic systems is essential if we wish to conserve their biodiversity and enjoy the benefits of healthy Lake Eyre Basin ecosystems in the future. Acknowledgements This chapter has drawn research during the Dryland River Refugia Project, CRC for Freshwater Ecology. We thank colleagues from Griffith University, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, and the Murray–Darling Basin Freshwater Research Centre (Northern Basin Laboratory) for field assistance, data on river discharge and valuable discussions. We are indebted to pastoral landowners for access to waterholes on their properties and for their hospitality and encouragement. Two colleagues reviewed this chapter and contributed to improvements. References Arthington AH, Balcombe SR (2011) Extreme flow variability and the ‘boom and bust’ ecology of fish in arid-zone floodplain rivers: a case history with implications for environmental flows, conservation and management. Ecohydrology 4, 708–720. doi:10.1002/eco.221
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