Migratory fish are fulfilling different roles in maintaining the integrity of river ecosystems and in providing valuable services. Since rivers are among the most threatened ecosystems worldwide it causes the biodiversity of freshwater systems and their associated ecosystem services to decline. The Shingwedzi River catchment is an aquatic biodiversity hotspot for South Africa with at least 43 fish species. Many migratory fish species including the Mottled eel (Anguilla bengalensis), Mozambique eel (Anguilla mossambica) and the cyprinids have occurred in this river system. There is an extremely poor understanding of the importance of fish migrations and associated river connectivity in many of the rivers in the Kruger National Park. This information is urgently needed because anthropogenic threats are making these migratory fish species uncommon and some even locally extinct in this river system. The study aims to characterise the dispersal and migration of fish in the Shingwedzi River to contribute to our knowledge of the role of fish migrations and its ecological importance. This will include the evaluation of the fish community structures of the Shingwedzi River.
Client and/or collaborating stakeholders: SANPARKS, Charles Sturt University.
Interesting and important outcomes/prospects: The rivers within the Kruger National Park is often referred to as rivers within a sea of dams which consequently affect river connectivity above and below the park. The Shingwedzi river forms part of a few rivers that are still connected to lowland reaches below the park. Globally, river connectivity and associated fish migrations are known to have tremendous value for many ecosystem processes including energy cycling, food web interactions and maintaining ecosystem niches and predator-prey interactions. Knowledge of the migratory ecology of the fishes in the Shingwedzi can contribute to our understanding of the importance of river connectivity throughout the park. In this study, there is a rare opportunity, due to recent freshet flows in the northern part of the Kruger, to characterise the response of fishes in the Shingwedzi River.
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