ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

EWKR food web fish community trophic dynamics (2018-2019)


Commonwealth Environmental Water Office via Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, $40,000


Dr Keller Kopf

Research Theme

Environmental Water


The Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (EWKR) project was a six year (2014-2019) $10 million project which aimed to improve the science available to support environmental water management and thereby contribute to achieving the Murray-Darling Basin Plan objectives.The EWKR project was focussed around four themes – vegetation, fish, waterbirds, and food webs.

This food web theme project was led by Charles Sturt University in collaboration with state fisheries agencies, MDFRC and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office's Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project.

It developed and tested a trophic position indicator for Murray-Darling basin fishes utilising the fish community and basal resource sampling done as part of the Basin-wide LTIM project.

The aim of this research project was to develop an annual basin-scale indicator for monitoring long-term changes in the trophic position (trophic level and diversity of food resources) of Murray-Darling Basin fishes, with potential application for management and restoration activities including monitoring ecological responses to environmental flows. As river flow regimes are drivers of food and energy production and influence how different sources of nutrients enter food webs, the trophic position indicator may be a useful tool to evaluate ecosystem responses to environmental flows.

The trophic niche indicator that has been developed is useful to assess how food resources for fish respond to the delivery of environmental flows and shows how it may be useful for assessing fish populations and determining if flow deliveries are benefiting fish recruitment and food web structure, ultimately leading to more productive populations of top predators.

This research activity is described in the Individual Research Activity Summaries [Basin scale trophic niche indicator] detailed in the final report on the food webs theme research.


Kopf, R.K. (2019) Murray-Darling basin trophic niche indicator. In Bond, N., Lester, R., Ryder, D., Thompson, R., Kopf, R.K.  Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research Project. Food Webs Theme Report, Report prepared for the Department of the Environment and Energy, Commonwealth Environmental Water Office by La Trobe University, Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems (formerly Murray‒Darling Freshwater Research Centre).


A  trophic position indicator has been developed which can be used as a tool to monitor long- term ecosystem changes in the Murray-Darling Basin.


Dr Keller Kopf  email
CSU Albury-Wodonga campus

March  2020