Recent results from a trial undertaken at Sheepstation Creek in Brandon indicate that planting trees along river banks can help increase fish stocks.
In 2012, NQ Dry Tropics carried out a project on a property owned by John and Frank Gorizia, to remove weeds from half a kilometre of creek bank and plant two hundred and fifty paperbark and Leichhardt trees in their place, in order to help fish survive in an area known for fish kills.
Freshwater creeks are considered nursery grounds, and when they are healthy, it means more fish for recreational fishers.
Electro-fishing surveys performed at Sheepstation Creek by James Cook University research group Tropwater in July 2015, indicate that the measures have dramatically increased fish diversity and numbers, with 15 species present, compared with only three species ten years ago.
The project was part of NQ Dry Tropics’ Restoring Burdekin Coastal Ecosystems for the Great Barrier Reef and Ramsar Project, funded by the Australian Government, which aims to improve the health of Queensland’s coastal wetlands.
NQ Dry Tropics Project Manager Scott Fry explained that nearly 70 per cent of Queensland fish, including barramundi, need freshwater wetlands to complete their life cycles, but weeds and oxygen “dead zones” often restrict important fish migrations and kill thousands of fish in the Burdekin area each year.
“Fish kills often occur when water temperatures increase, reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water and creating “dead zones”, where fish cannot survive”, he said.
“Cooler water temperatures hold more oxygen, and by planting trees along the creek’s edge, the trees block sunlight from reaching the water, maintaining healthy dissolved oxygen levels for fish.
“The shade from the trees also reduces the amount of sunlight available to aquatic weeds, reducing growth along the edge of the creek and opening up more fish habitat. Fallen tree branches can also provide valuable habitat for fish..
Alan Griggs, of the Burdekin Fish Restocking Association, was impressed with the project’s success.
“Massive amounts of small fish have come back to the habitat,” he said.
“Everyone involved with the project is ecstatic – nobody can believe the results.”
Scott Fry added that it was important to build on this success, and a further 120 trees were planted in the area during October 2015.
“We would like more landholders to participate in the project to improve local fish habitat,” he said
If you are a landholder and are interested in planting trees on your property, please contact Scott Fry at NQ Dry Tropics: firstname.lastname@example.org.