New research from the Aurthur Rylah Institute released shows that providing woody habitat for native fish in the Murray River increases the size of their population.

Research undertaken

The study spanned 7 years and 110km of the Murray River, and involved installing over 4450 snags and analysing more than six million records of tagged fish.

The team of scientists from around Australia used a range of methods to track the fish populations over time, including electrofishing surveys, mark-recapture, and telemetry tracking. Anglers also provided important data by uploading catch records as part of a citizen-science program.


The research showed that at sites where habitat restoration was done, there was a three-fold increase in the abundance of Murray cod, and a doubling of abundance of golden perch.

Abundances of target species in the nearby reference sites remained stable, which indicates that the fish populations across the whole study area increased, rather than just the same fishes moving from one area to another.

An example of the kind of complex woody structure that provides habitat for a range of fish and macroinvertebrats. Photo: Arthur Rylah Institute


This research, which proves the effectiveness of habitat restoration, is important for government bodies and authorities. Professor Corey Bradshaw from Flinders University hopes that these authorities are more likely to take habitat restoration options seriously as a result of these findings.

“These results give great confidence to river managers that installing woody habitat really does help native fish populations thrive, and delivers substantial benefits to the communities using them,” says Dr Lyon.

It will take a combination of interventions to effectively restore fish populations, and this research demonstrates that habitat restoration can play a major role in population restoration.

This article was adapted from ScienceDaily. You can access the full research paper here and read more about the importance of habitat for fish populations, and projects working to restore and protect fish habitat:

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Flinders University. (2019, April 5). Australian Murray River habitat restoration increases native fish populations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 10, 2019