The role of carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) size in the degradation of freshwater ecosystems

  • Patrick Driver

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Carp (Cyprinus carpio) are alien freshwater fish that are globally widespread and often associated with highly degraded freshwater ecosystems. This study explored carphabitat interactions that could contribute to the worldwide distribution of, and consequent ecological impacts by, carp. Particular emphasis was placed on the role of carp size in these interactions. One component of this study involved a field experiment that was used to quantify the effects of carp biomass density and size-structure on freshwater invertebrate communities and water quality. The treatments in this field experiment comprised different combinations of large (2 kg) and small (0.7 kg) carp, and low (330 kg.ha-1),intermediate (570 kg.ha-1) and high (650 kg.ha-1) biomass densities. Carp impacts were more carp size-dependent than described in previous studies. In particular, carp size was more important than carp biomass density in determining the concentration of total phosphorus and algal biomass. On the other hand, a more even mix of carp sizes increased total nitrogen. The zooplankton and macroinvertebrate taxa that were more abundant in the presence of carp were the taxa most able to avoid carp predation and tolerate habitat changes caused by carp benthivory. To complement the small-spatial scale field experiment, large-scale patterns of carp distribution, biomass density and recruitment were explored among the rivers of New South Wales (Australia) in relation to their physical habitat. In contrast to expectations, and although most recruitment probably occurred at lower-altitudes, the populations with a size structure and biomass density most likely to cause ecological degradation occurred at intermediate altitudes. Furthermore, the distribution of smaller carp (less than or equal to 100 mm, and less than or equal to 300 mm) indicated that the regulation of river flows does not always favour carp populations, particularly during drought conditions. Nevertheless, it was concluded in a review of the carp literature, which incorporated the findings of this study, that invasion by alien carp is most successful in streams with formerly highly variable flows that are now subject to flow regulation. Moreover, carp are likely to enhance their advantage in these waters through habitat modification.
Date of Award2002
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorRichard Norris (Supervisor)

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