ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Modelling Dispersal Patterns of Fish Larvae in a Large River (2011-2014)

ILWS Strategic Research Area
Sustainable Water

Austrian Science Fund

Investigators/ Researchers
Assoc. Prof. Hubert Keckeis (University of Vienna), Dr Michael Tritthart, Prof. Hubert Habersack (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences) and Dr Paul Humphries


Fish are widely used as indicators in riverine systems for ecological integrity, as they integrate large spatial scales during their life cycle by their different use of habitats. The linkage between spawning and nursery habitats is crucial for the sustainability of fish populations, as fish larvae present critical stages in the life cycle. Dispersal patterns of larval fluvial fish are investigated on the temporal as well as spatial scale by introducing individually marked fish of different ontogenetic stage at different hydro-morphological habitats in the main river channel of the Danube. Using an integrated habitat modelling approach the observed patterns are superimposed by particle traces derived from the application of a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model in order to define the triggers and mechanisms of larval dispersal patterns. Implications about the connectivity of spawning and nursery habitats are made based on this approach.


Lechner A, Keckeis H, Schludermann E, Humphries P, McCasker N & M Tritthart (2013) Hydraulic forces impact larval fish drift in the free flowing section of a large European river. Ecohydrology, doi: 10.1002/eco.1386

Schludermann E, Tritthart M, Humphries P & H Keckeis (2012) Dispersal and retention of larval fish in a potential nursery habitat of a large temperate river: an experimental study. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 69: 1302-1315.

Conference presentations at the 37th Larval Fish Conference, Miami, 2-6 June 2013.

  • Lechner,  A.J, Keckheis,H., Loisl,F., Tritthart, M., Glas, M.,  & Humphries,P.  (2013) Investigating the mode of dispersal for larval stages of nase carp (chondrostoma nasus), and the driving hydrological and hydraulic forces in a large river (Danube, Austria)
  • Keckheis,H.,Zens, B.,  Lechner,  A.J, Loisl,F., Glas, M.,  Tritthart, M., Hauer, C., Habersack, H.,  & Humphries,P.  Larval drift and hydraulics: dispersal patterns in an experimental velocity gradient.
  • Glas, M; Tritthart, M; Lechner, A; Keckeis, H; Loisl, F; Humphries, P; Habersack, H. (2013) Larval drift experiments on a shoreline in a large river: Validation of the particle tracing model in combination with a 3D numerical model
  • Zens, B; Glas, M; Tritthart, M; Lechner, A; Loisl, F; Humphries, P; Keckeis, H; Habersack, H. (2013) Movement patterns of fish larvae in relation to flow-velocity and orientation along the current vector in an experimental flumeDanube River


The knowledge from this research will be used in applied restoration ecology for large-scale restoration concepts.

Pic right : Danube River taken by Paul Humphries

Dr Paul Humphries
Charles Sturt University – Albury

September 2013