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Catchment-wide interactive effects of anthropogenic structures and river levels on fish spawning migrations

Jubb, William M.; Noble, Richard A.A.; Dodd, Jamie R.; Nunn, Andrew D.; Schirrmacher, Paula; Lothian, Angus J.; Albright, Atticus J.; Bubb, Damian H.; Lucas, Martyn C.; Bolland, Jonathan D.


William M. Jubb

Paula Schirrmacher

Angus J. Lothian

Atticus J. Albright

Damian H. Bubb

Martyn C. Lucas


Worldwide, rivers are extensively fragmented by anthropogenic structures, reducing longitudinal connectivity, inhibiting migration and leading to severe declines in many fish populations, especially for diadromous species. However, few studies have determined the effects of annual differences in hydrology on catchment penetration past barriers to spawning habitats. We investigated the upstream spawning migration of 120 (n = 61 & 59) acoustic tagged river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) across two contrasting (dry and wet) years in the River Yorkshire Ouse, England. Overall, significantly more lamprey reached spawning habitat (76% vs 39%) and penetrated significantly further upstream (median [km] from release, 53.9 vs 16.8) in the wet year than the dry year. Passage at weirs was almost exclusively during elevated river levels, which directly and collectively influenced catchment-wide distribution, especially in the dry year. Indeed, higher proportions entered two upper tributaries in the wet year (9.8% vs 27.1% and 9.8% vs 30.5%), due to increased passage efficiencies at the two main river weirs (60.5–87.5% and 54.5–83.8%), and reached assumed spawning locations 66.5% and 10.9% quicker. By contrast, there was no difference in numbers of lamprey entering, or time taken to arrive at assumed spawning location, in the two lower river tributaries between years. Our study supports the landscape-scale paradigm for ecosystem restoration because of the observed catchment-level effects of hydrology and barrier distribution on fish migration. Connectivity restoration for migratory fish should be implemented at a catchment scale, with planning incorporating spatial information regarding accessibility to key habitats to reap the largest gains.


Jubb, W. M., Noble, R. A., Dodd, J. R., Nunn, A. D., Schirrmacher, P., Lothian, A. J., …Bolland, J. D. (2023). Catchment-wide interactive effects of anthropogenic structures and river levels on fish spawning migrations. Anthropocene, 43, Article 100400.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 17, 2023
Online Publication Date Jul 20, 2023
Publication Date Sep 1, 2023
Deposit Date Aug 29, 2023
Publicly Available Date Aug 31, 2023
Journal Anthropocene
Print ISSN 2213-3054
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Article Number 100400
Keywords Habitat fragmentation; Hydrology; Lampetra; Migration; River barriers; Telemetry
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