Robyn J. Watts

Robyn J. Watts
Charles Sturt University · Institute for Land, Water and Society

BSc (Hons), PhD

About

76
Publications
19,511
Reads
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1,490
Citations
Citations since 2017
20 Research Items
775 Citations
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Introduction
Prof Watts is a senior researcher with the Institute for Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University, Australia. Her research interests include in the ecology, biodiversity, management and restoration of aquatic ecosystems. She has led several research projects on ecosystem responses to environmental flows in collaboration with natural resource management agencies.
Additional affiliations
July 1995 - present
Charles Sturt University
January 1992 - August 1995
Queensland Department of Primary Industries
Position
  • Fisheries Biologist
January 1987 - December 1991
University of Western Australia
Education
February 1987 - November 1991
University of Western Australia
Field of study
  • Zoology
February 1981 - November 1985
University of Western Australia
Field of study
  • Zoology

Publications

Publications (76)
Article
Full-text available
In the face of mounting environmental and political challenges in river management, accurate and timely scientific information is required to inform policy development and guide effective management of waterways. The Murray–Darling Basin is Australia's largest river system by area and is the subject of a heavily contested series of water reforms re...
Article
Full-text available
We make sense of the world around us through mental knowledge structures called ‘frames’. Frames, and the metaphors that help to form and maintain them, can be studied through examining discourse. In this paper, we aim to understand the framing of two trials with environmental water by analysing interview-derived discourse. Two separate flow trials...
Article
Full-text available
Many water scientists aim for their work to inform water policy and management, and in pursuit of this objective, they often work alongside government water agencies to ensure their research is relevant, timely and communicated effectively. A paper in this issue, examining 'Science integrity, public policy and water governance in the Murray-Darling...
Article
Full-text available
Evaluating wetland vegetation responses to flow regimes is challenging because of the inherently complex, variable and dynamic nature of wetland vegetation in space and time. We propose four principles to guide the development of management objectives and evaluation approaches to support adaptive management of wetland vegetation in flow-managed sys...
Article
• Dam construction is a major driver of ecological change in freshwater ecosystems. Fish populations have been shown to diverge in response to different flow velocity habitats, yet adaptations of fish populations to river and reservoir habitats created by dams remains poorly understood. • We aimed to evaluate divergence of morphological traits and...
Technical Report
Full-text available
To understand how the Southern Spring Flow event influenced productivity along the length of the Murray River two complementary monitoring programs were carried out. In the first program, field measurements were taken each week along the Murray at 21 sites for 15 weeks to determine the concentrations and loads of carbon, nutrients and algae (measur...
Article
Adaptive management is central to improving outcomes of environmental water delivery. The Australian Government's Murray−Darling Basin (MDB) Plan 2012 explicitly states that adaptive management should be applied in the planning, prioritisation and use of environmental water. A Long Term Intervention Monitoring (LTIM) program was established in 2014...
Article
Movement and migration of freshwater fish for the purpose of feeding, dispersal and spawning are essential life‐history components often linked to river flows. Understanding movement responses to abiotic stimuli such as river flows is crucial to inform effective management, especially considering that river regulation is contributing to global popu...
Article
Overbank floods in modified lowland rivers often inundate a mosaic of different land uses (e.g. forests, crops and pastures) on the floodplain. We used a glasshouse experiment to investigate dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nutrient (TP, NH4+, NOx) releases, chemical oxygen demand (COD) and dissolved oxygen (DO) depletion in water following inund...
Article
Freshwater reservoirs support valuable commercial and recreational fisheries resources worldwide. Recreational fisheries in reservoirs are commonly managed using length-based harvest regulations, although empirical data is required to ensure these regulations are fit-for-purpose and that any changes do not result in negative population responses. F...
Article
Overbank floods in modified lowland rivers often inundate a mosaic of different land uses (e.g. forests, crops and pastures) on the floodplain. We used a glasshouse experiment to investigate dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nutrient (TP, NH4+, NOx) releases, chemical oxygen demand (COD) and dissolved oxygen (DO) depletion in water following inund...
Article
Globally, overharvest contributes to population declines of fish and invertebrates. Quantifying the effects of fishing and associated harvest is essential to preventing such declines. Murray crayfish Euastacus armatus exhibit slow growth and late age at maturity, and were historically abundant in Australia’s Murray–Darling Basin, but river regulati...
Article
The biomass of organisms of different sizes is increasingly being used to explore macroscale variation in food-web and community structure. Here we examine how invasive species and river flow regulation affect native fish biomass and fish community log10 biomass – body mass scaling relationships in Australia’s largest river system, the Murray–Darli...
Article
Full-text available
The allocation of time and energy to different behaviours can impact survival and fitness, and ultimately influence population dynamics. Intrinsically, the rate at which animals expend energy is a key component in understanding how they interact with surrounding environments. Activity, derived through locomotion and basic metabolism, represents the...
Article
Full-text available
Managers of land, water, and biodiversity are working with increasingly complex social ecological systems with high uncertainty. Adaptive management (learning from doing) is an ideal approach for working with this complexity. The competing social and environmental demands for water have prompted interest in freshwater adaptive management, but its s...
Article
Full-text available
Widespread flooding in south-eastern Australia in 2010 resulted in a hypoxic (low dissolved oxygen, DO) blackwater (high dissolved carbon) event affecting 1800 kilometres of the Murray–Darling Basin. There was concern that prolonged low DO would result in death of aquatic biota. Australian federal and state governments and local stakeholders collab...
Article
Full-text available
Adaptive management enables managers to work with complexity and uncertainty, and to respond to changing biophysical and social conditions. Amid considerable uncertainty over the benefits of environmental flows, governments are embracing adaptive management as a means to inform decision making. This Special Issue of Environmental Management present...
Article
Different populations of organisms can vary widely in their responses to environmental conditions and this variation is fundamental to the persistence of species. Using a common garden experiment, we examined temperature-specific growth and survival responses of larvae among populations of Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) from four regions of the...
Article
Full-text available
The serial discontinuity concept (SDC) proposes that hypolimnetic-releasing impoundments cause major disruptions to the naturally occurring physical, chemical and biological gradients of rivers but that this impact diminishes with distance downstream. Such a gradient in discharge, flow velocity and temperature regime occurs below a large hypolimnet...
Chapter
Environmental water is often a contentious investment in the environment that must be delivered under uncertainty regarding the ecological and social benefits they deliver. Adaptive management can be used to facilitate decision making under uncertainty, and use new knowledge and understanding to improve management decisions and outcomes over time....
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Environmental flows are being implemented to restore river systems affected by the impacts of river regulation. Environmental flows that are wholly contained within the channel have the potential to inundate riverbanks and other in-channel geomorphological features. This can increase the wetted benthic surface, which is important for primary produc...
Article
The Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii and Golden Perch Macquaria ambigua are important recreational species in Australia's Murray–Darling Basin (MDB); both species have declined substantially, but recovery is evident in some areas. Minimum length limits (MLLs)—implemented to ensure fish could spawn at least once prior to harvest eligibility—have inc...
Article
Recreational fishery management aims to prevent species decline and provide sustainable fisheries. Overfishing has been frequently suggested as a cause of historic fishery declines within the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), Australia, but there have been few quantitative surveys for providing fishery-dependent data to gauge status. The Murray Cod Maccu...
Article
Stock enhancement is a management tool used for fishery recovery worldwide, yet the success of many stocking programs remains unquantified. Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) and golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) are important Australian recreational target species that have experienced widespread decline. Stocking of these species has been undertak...
Conference Paper
Winemiller and Rose’s life history model (opportunistic, periodic and equilibrium strategies) seeks to explain the adaptations of organisms to a changeable environment. In fishes, these adaptations relate to traits, such as age at maturity, and relative investment in size and number of young. A key element missing from the life history model, howev...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Environmental water delivery is becoming more frequently used to help restore riverine ecosystems. Environmental watering actions have been undertaken in the Edward-Wakool system in New South Wales since 2010. There is a diverse and active community that has been engaged in activities associated with environmental watering in this system. Uptake of...
Article
Full-text available
Critical (<30 min) and prolonged (>60 min) swimming speeds in laboratory chambers were determined for larvae of six species of Australian freshwater fishes: trout cod Maccullochella macquariensis, Murray cod Maccullochella peelii, golden perch Macquaria ambigua, silver perch Bidyanus bidyanus, carp gudgeon Hypseleotris spp. and Murray River rainbow...
Article
Full-text available
Hypoxia represents a growing threat to biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems. Here, aquatic surface respiration (ASR) and oxygen thresholds required for survival in freshwater and simulated blackwater are evaluated for four lowland river fishes native to the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), Australia. Juvenile stages of predatory species including golde...
Article
Full-text available
The implementation of fishing regulations becomes increasingly complex where the natural state of fisheries resources is unknown. Comparing populations in fished and non-fished areas can provide information that is vital for the management and protection of species. We conducted field surveys of Euastacus armatus in non-fished and fished reservoirs...
Conference Paper
Murray crayfish Euastacus armatus are the second largest freshwater crayfish in the world, growing to 3 kg, and are a popular recreational target. The species was historically distributed throughout many rivers of the Murray Darling Basin, Australia, but have declined in abundance and size since the 1950’s. Fishing regulations, including bag and si...
Article
Murray Crayfish (Euastacus armatus) can be legally fished by recreational fishers in two states of Australia; however, there is limited published biological information on which recreational fishing regulations can be based. Murray Crayfish populations were surveyed in a 230-km river reach of the River Murray, New South Wales, Australia. Only 39% o...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Large dams provide important socioeconomic benefits but also have negative social and environmental impacts. New approaches for dam planning and dam re-operation are required to achieve more sustainable outcomes. In 2010, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization sponsored an international workshop “Challenges and Solutio...
Article
Full-text available
Competing demands for water have resulted in many wetlands becoming either more permanently flooded or more permanently dry. It has been stated that such changes may lead to a loss of diversity in wetland communities; yet to date, this has not been tested experimentally. In this study, we experimentally test the hypothesis that increasing the hydro...
Article
Full-text available
Riparian vegetation is known to affect aquatic macroinvertebrate communities through contributions of organic matter and shading. Despite the widespread degradation of riparian vegetation in Australia, there are relatively few studies examining the effect of changes in riparian vegetation on in-stream macroinvertebrate assemblages on individual cat...
Article
Full-text available
Climate change is predicted to affect the future supply and demand for water resources. Current water management practices may not adequately cope with the impacts of climate change on the reliability of water supply, flood risk, health, agriculture, energy generation and aquatic ecosystems. Water managers can adapt to climate variability by struct...
Article
The use of data provided by fishers is a contentious topic in fishery management. We compare fisher local ecological knowledge, fisher catch data and scientific data for Murray crayfish (Euastacus armatus) size and sex ratios in the River Murray, Australia, to determine if these data are consistent and if fisher knowledge can be a reliable input in...
Article
Full-text available
Flow and sediment regimes of floodplain rivers around the world have been changed by river regulation and land management, altering the ecological processes structuring riparian plant communities. However, the combined effects of inundation and sedimentation processes on riparian plant survival and growth are poorly understood. The separate and int...
Article
Identification of habitat features that are strongly associated with the occurrence of threatened species is important in terms of predicting impacts of habitat change and identifying key habitats for conservation. In this paper, we apply habitat-based statistical models to predict occupancy patterns of the endangered southern bell frog (Litoria ra...
Article
Case studies of successful adaptive management generally focus on examples that have frameworks for adaptive management embedded from project conception. In contrast, this paper outlines an example of emergent adaptive management.Wedescribe an approach whereby targeted research and collaboration among stakeholders assisted learning, and ultimately...
Data
Full-text available
Executive Summary During 1997-99 the (then) Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) undertook a review of the operation of Hume and Dartmouth Dams, establishing an independent stakeholder Reference Panel to assist with this task. Their aim was to consider how the operating rules might be amended to better address the competing objectives of water s...
Book
Full-text available
http://www.nwc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/10437/waterlines_16_pulsed_Flows_full_version.pdf
Article
Full-text available
In temporary freshwater systems, the type of vegetation within a system can influence community structure. Vegetation not only provides physical structure, but can also contribute to changes in abundance and quality of food and in water quality through decomposition. An experiment was undertaken using natural and artificial vegetation in small meso...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this chapter we reflect on a relatively small but influential example of adaptive management which seeks to enhance the environmental benefits of the flow re-gime in the highly regulated Mitta Mitta River in Australia‟s Murray-Darling Ba-sin. In 1999 an operational review recommended the reintroduction of greater in-stream flow variability in th...
Article
Full-text available
The maintenance of invertebrate diversity within agricultural environments can enhance a number of agronomically important processes, such as nutrient cycling and biological pest control. However, few Australian studies have been undertaken which specifically address the effects of commercial management regimes on rice field biodiversity. In this s...
Article
Full-text available
Within the semiarid regions of New South Wales, Australia, the endangered southern bell frog (Litoria rani- formis) occupies a landscape that is characterisedby unpredictable rainfall and periodic flooding. Limited knowledge of the mo vement and habitat-occupancy patterns of this species in response to flood events has hampered ,conservation effort...
Article
Full-text available
Since European settlement many Australian waterways have experienced significant geomorphic and ecological change due to modification of flow regimes and catchment landuse. Current restoration guidelines for waterways place a low priority on rehabilitation in highly degraded stream reaches; it is considered pragmatic to abandon such sites in favour...
Article
Full-text available
Throughout the world there is a growing interest in river restoration and billions of dollars are being spent to address the problems that have arisen from our misuse of river ecosystems. The field of restoration science has much to contribute to the practice and assessment of river restoration projects. However, the development of this discipline...
Article
Full-text available
We investigated changes in the spatial organization of individuals within a population of endangered Southern Bell Frogs Litoria raniformis over an eight-month period. Our results identified strong temporal changes in both spatial organization and the apparent location of L. raniformis within the study site. Ripley's K Function analyses showed that...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Riparian habitats are where terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems meet. They are vital sites in a catchment supporting high levels of biodiversity. Given the large number of rivers in Tasmania and, in some places, their level of degradation, there is a need for a rapid method of measuring riparian condition to underpin strategies for improved manageme...
Article
Scour is one of the most important regulators of biofilm structure and function, especially in floodplain rivers where low gradients and flood frequencies limit potential for scouring. In this study, we experimentally examined the effects of flow velocity on the biomass and taxonomic composition of epixylic biofilms from floodplain reaches of the M...
Chapter
Effective management of wetlands of should be underpinned by a good understanding of wetland communities. At present there is limited information on the distribution and abundance of fish in wetlands of the Murrumbidgee River, New South Wales. Four permanent and four temporary billabongs on the floodplain of the mid-Murrumbidgee River were surveyed...
Article
Full-text available
In this study we have used stable isotope analysis to identify major food resources driving food webs in commercial rice agroecosystems and to examine the effects of agricultural management practices on the trophic structure of these food webs. Potential carbon sources and aquatic macroinvertebrate consumers were collected from large-scale rice far...
Article
Several studies have suggested that estuaries, lagoons and enclosed embayments may offer special opportunities for local subdivision in marine species. We used data from published papers and unpublished theses to examine the effect of such water bodies on allozyme differentiation of seven species of inshore fishes in Western Australia. We included...
Article
Full-text available
Acute and chronic toxicity tests were conducted on the herbicide benzofenap (Taipan 300) using two Australian freshwater invertebrates. The commercial formulation of benzofenap and a blank formulation containing only the adjuvants of Taipan 300 were tested against final instar larvae of the midge Chironomus tepperi and adults of the aquatic snail I...
Chapter
Full-text available
Biodiversity is usually defined at three hierarchically related levels: genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. Our understanding of each of these levels in the Paroo River is limited, but several studies have shown the existence of unique biological diversity. For example, there are several endemic crustacean species in this...
Article
Full-text available
Allozyme electrophoresis was used to examine patterns of genetic differentiation in the western minnow, Galaxias occidentalis, from the North Dandalup and Canning Rivers in south-westem Australia. Two distinct genetic forms of this species were identified in these rivers and both forms occur sympatrically in samples from two sites. A significant de...
Article
The atherinid fish Craterocephalus capreoli Rendahl is abundant in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, 70 km off the Western Australia coast and 250 km south of the southern limit of the range of the species along the mainland. Electrophoretic examination of 7 allozyme loci at 17 sites in the Houtman Abrolhos revealed a substantially lower level of polym...
Article
A sensitive radioimmunoassay was developed to measure circulating levels of the neuro-hypophysial peptide lysine vasopressin (LVP) in the marsupial quokka (Setonix brachyurus), which is abundant on Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia. Animals from locations on the island where free water is completely absent were compared in midsumme...
Article
Enzyme polymorphisms in the sea urchinEchinometra mathaei were examined to test the relative influences of population turnover and patchiness in recruitment on genetic heterogeneity. We found that the total variance in allelic frequency among three populations separated by approximately 4 km at Rottnest Island, Western Australia (collected in Febru...