Environmental flows (e-flows) are a common management tool to improve the health of flow-regulated river systems and their biota. The effect of e-flows on fish, waterbirds and vegetation has been assessed in Australia, but their influence on turtles remains largely unstudied. We opportunistically examined the effect of e-flows on the eastern long-necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis), a species that occupies ephemeral aquatic habitats, by measuring an index of abundance (catch per unit effort) and body condition before and after an environmental watering event that replenished a severely contracted creek in the mid-Murray region. We found that average body condition increased after watering. Abundance decreased markedly after watering, but the change was not statistically significant. While the causal inference of our study was limited by the opportunistic nature of our before-after experimental design, this study provides preliminary evidence that environmental flows may improve the health of turtles occupying ephemeral floodplain habitats. We encourage further research into the effect of e-flows on turtles to confirm the hypothesis that the increase in average body condition recorded in the current study was a function of e-flows.

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Last updated: 15th Jan 2018