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See detailThe influence of environmental factors on the upstream movements of rheophilic cyprinids according to their position in a river basin
Benitez, Jean-Philippe ULiege; Ovidio, Michaël ULiege

in Ecology of Freshwater Fish (in press)

Throughout their lives, fish accomplish frequent movements between functional habitats that are often triggered by environmental signals. We aimed to determine if rheophilic cyprinids (barbel, Barbus ... [more ▼]

Throughout their lives, fish accomplish frequent movements between functional habitats that are often triggered by environmental signals. We aimed to determine if rheophilic cyprinids (barbel, Barbus barbus and chub Squalius cephalus), living in different places of the same river basin, may develop similar movement periodicities and react identically to environmental cues to carry out their spawning migration. We used the capture data of three modern fish passes that were monitored continuously during three consecutive years (2010 to 2012) in three rivers of the Meuse basin in Belgium. We captured 418 individuals at adult stage, and the capture number per species was greater (80%) in spring (during the spawning migration period). The spawning migration of the barbel occurred earlier (median = 122nd day of the year) and at lower temperatures (median = 14.5°C) in the lowland rivers compared to the upland river (140th day of the year and 18.4°C). For the barbel, migration initiation differed depending on the river but finished under similar environmental conditions. In contrast, for the chub, no significant difference between rivers was observed regarding spawning migration periodicity and environmental cues. Within the same river basin, rheophilic cyprinids demonstrate flexibility in their responses to environmental variables and may optimise the start date of migration to spawning grounds depending on their local environment and individual experiences. This phenomenon was more pronounced in the barbel, which has more specific ecological requirements. [less ▲]

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See detailThe use of behavioural metrics to evaluate fishway efficiency
Ovidio, Michaël ULiege; Sonny, Damien; Dierckx, Arnaud ULiege et al

in River Research & Applications (in press)

Fishways are installed worldwide to facilitate accessibility to functional habitats and to increase the ecological continuity of rivers. Their evaluations are increasing, but complete studies in the field ... [more ▼]

Fishways are installed worldwide to facilitate accessibility to functional habitats and to increase the ecological continuity of rivers. Their evaluations are increasing, but complete studies in the field with wild individuals are still scarce. In the lower Bocq River (Belgium), a pool type fishway was installed in 2011. A combined passive‐integrated‐transponder‐tag and radio‐telemetry system was designed and installed downstream of the dam and in the fishway to analyse fine‐scale individual fish behaviour. Three fish species (brown trout, European grayling, and barbel) were captured in the river; n = 125 fish were tagged and released downstream of the fishway. Behavioural metrics were proposed and used in order to attain a comprehensive view on the efficiency of the fishway, including attraction and entrance efficiency, searching and passage delays, and overall and adjusted passage efficiency. The results indicate a major problem in terms of attraction efficiency (48.9% for the trout, 20.5% for the grayling, and 41.2% for the barbel) and time to find the entrance of the fishway (mean 65.1 hr for the trout and 538.9 r for the grayling). For fish that succeed to approach the entrance of the fishway, the passage efficiency was 86.9% for the trout, 55.5% for the grayling, and 7.1% for the barbel. The time taken to cross the structure was reasonable for the salmonids (mean < 1.5 hr for trout and grayling) but very long (21 hr) for the barbel. Our results underline the necessity of a holistic approach to evaluate fishway efficiency using precise comprehensive metrics and hydraulic characterization. [less ▲]

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See detailFish habitat selection in a large hydropeaking river: strong individual and temporal variations revealed by telemetry
Plichard, Laura; Capra, Hervé; Pella, Hervé et al

Conference (2017, July)

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See detailFish learned movements in a large regulated river
Capra, Hervé; Pella, Hervé; Ovidio, Michaël ULiege et al

Conference (2017, July)

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See detailA field quantification of all inclusive fish-pass efficiency using a combined telemetry system
Ovidio, Michaël ULiege; Sonny, Damien; Dierckx, Arnaud ULiege et al

Conference (2017, July)

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See detailLe retour du saumon et l'écologie des poissons migrateurs en Ourthe-Vesdre-Amblève
Ovidio, Michaël ULiege

Conference given outside the academic context (2017)

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See detailEuropean silver eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) migration behaviour in a highly regulated shipping canal
Verhelst, Pieterjan; Baeyens, Raf; Buysse, David et al

Conference (2017, June)

Over the last 40 years, Anguilla species in the northern hemisphere have shown a strong decline in recruitment. Due to a 98% recruitment decline, the European eel is now classified as critically ... [more ▼]

Over the last 40 years, Anguilla species in the northern hemisphere have shown a strong decline in recruitment. Due to a 98% recruitment decline, the European eel is now classified as critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List. To aid conservation and recovery of European eel populations, the European Union recently adopted a Council Regulation which imposes a management system that ensures 40% escapement of the spawning stock biomass, defined as the best estimate of the theoretical escapement rate if the stock were completely free of anthropogenic influences. Various causes likely contribute to the eel decline (e.g. pollution, human-introduced parasites, changes in ocean climate, habitat deterioration…), but habitat fragmentation by migration barriers that prevent the movement of silver eels between freshwater and the sea is probably one of the most important bottlenecks. During the last decades, a substantial number of canals has been developed, creating new habitat for eels. However, eel migration and potential obstacles in these systems are still underexplored. In this study, we tracked 131 European eels (Anguilla anguilla L.) from October 2014 till March 2017 in the Belgian Albert Canal with acoustic telemetry. The 130-km long canal is on average 86 m wide, 5 m deep and functions as a shipping route between the rivers Schelde and Meuse. The canal has a highly regulated water flow and six shipping locks to overcome the 56-m fall, which may have a negative impact on silver eel escapement. Indeed, we found significant delays (i.e. periods with a significantly prolonged residence time) and a ca 50% lower swimming speed near shipping locks compared to riverine conditions. Depending on nothing but their accumulated fat for migration to their spawning grounds, delays can seriously impact eels by wasting precious energy resources needed for a successful trans-Atlantic migration. [less ▲]

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See detailLong-term monitoring of European eels in the Belgian Meuse River basin. From the historical drastic decline to recent outcomes of restocking practices.
Nzau Matondo, Billy ULiege; Dierckx, Arnaud ULiege; Benitez, Jean-Philippe ULiege et al

Conference (2017, June)

Long-term monitoring of yellow- and glass eel stages were performed in upland areas (>300km from sea) in order (i) to quantify the decline of wild yellow eels entering in the Belgian Meuse from the ... [more ▼]

Long-term monitoring of yellow- and glass eel stages were performed in upland areas (>300km from sea) in order (i) to quantify the decline of wild yellow eels entering in the Belgian Meuse from the Netherlands; (ii) to follow their upstream individual colonization; and (iii) to analyze the adaptation of young eels stocked as glass eels imported from UK. By monitoring a fish pass from 1992 to 2016, we quantified that the number of ascending eels has declined from n=5613 in 1992 to n=21 in 2016 (3.99%/year) and the mean length of eels has increased (4.1mm/year). During 6-years, upstream individual colonization of eels (2010-2015, n=1371) was followed using fixed RFIDtracking system. Few eels continued to migrate 4 years after tagging (<0.3%) and at >20km upstream (3.7%); and velocity of eels varied between individuals (0.012- 3.1km/day). In a 4-year (2013-2016) monitoring study of restocked glass eels using electrofishing and mobile RFID-tracking campaigns, we observed that eels grew rapidly in upland small brooks and recruitment was better in rivers with high carrying capacity (>15.8%, 2years post-stocking). Restocked eels dispersed in up- and downstream directions with behaviors including sedentary, nomadic and intermediate lifestyles. This suggests stocking as potential management measure to enhance local eel stocks. [less ▲]

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See detailAssessment of the entering stock, migration dynamics and fish pass fidelity of european eel in the belgian meuse river
Nzau Matondo, Billy ULiege; Benitez, Jean-Philippe ULiege; Dierckx, Arnaud ULiege et al

in River Research & Applications (2017), 33

Migration dynamics of incoming eels in Belgium via Lixhe in the Meuse River were investigated using two fish passes with different configurations— net traps and automatic detection stations—as tools to ... [more ▼]

Migration dynamics of incoming eels in Belgium via Lixhe in the Meuse River were investigated using two fish passes with different configurations— net traps and automatic detection stations—as tools to distinguish resident and migrating eels. From April to September 2013, 435 eels (P50 length, 403 mm; range, 196–836 mm) were caught (daily maxima catch, 90 eels per day), 90% between 13 June and 1 August (50 days) and P50 on 19 July. Eels migrated mostly at 19–26 °C (P50, 24.4 °C), river discharge 65–314m3 s 1 (P50, 84m3 s 1), during the dark at 00:00–05:00 h and during both the waxing and waning phases of moonlight. From 396 eels tagged and released 0.3 km downstream of the Lixhe dam, 6.8% of them were recaptured, and 37.4% were detected. Migration flux was estimated at 7184 eels (0.863 t) using the markrecapture method and decreased to 1156 eels (0.139 t) using automatic transponder detection. Most eels probably migrated through a sluice located downstream of Lixhe to reach the upper Meuse via the Albert Canal. Eels moved almost independently to the configuration of the fish passes and their location, but most eels displayed fidelity to the fish pass where they were captured. Migrant eels showed a wide range of size and life stages, with a higher proportion of eels (80%) belonging to the yellow eel stage. A lower proportion of eels (6%) had a larger size and presented an advanced continental silvering process corresponding to the migrating stage before their transatlantic migration. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [less ▲]

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See detailPoor Performance of a Retrofitted Downstream Bypass Revealed by the Analysis of Approaching Behaviour in Combination with a Trapping System
Ovidio, Michaël ULiege; Dierckx, Arnaud ULiege; Bunel, Sarah et al

in River Research & Applications (2017), 33

The implementation of fish downstream migration bypass systems is still a major challenge, and there is interest in validating the adequacy of different configurations of bypass devices. In the Amblève ... [more ▼]

The implementation of fish downstream migration bypass systems is still a major challenge, and there is interest in validating the adequacy of different configurations of bypass devices. In the Amblève River (Belgium), a mobile 3.3-m height dam feeds two principal Francis and one Francis micro-turbine and is equipped with a modern vertical slot fish pass and a downstream bypass. The aim of this study was to test the bypass attraction and efficiency (i.e. percentage of fish that approach the entrance and use the bypass) for Atlantic salmon smolts. During three consecutive years, a total of 1346 smolts were equipped with a radio frequency identification tag and released from March to May upstream of the dam of Lorcé. The entrance of the downstream migration bypass was equipped with a radio frequency identification antenna in order to detect the smolts approaching. In 2014, a capture cage was also placed downstream the bypass to evaluate its efficiency. The mean percentage of detected smolts at the entrance varied from 26.2 to 39.7%. In 2014, 16.5% of the released smolts entered the bypass and were finally caught in the cage, representing 39% of the smolts detected at the entrance. More than 98% of the detections occurred during night (mainly between 9 PM and 3 AM). The searching delay near the bypass entrance varied from less than 5 min to more than 5 days (median 4.3 min). Visual observation indicated a behavioural reluctance before entering the bypass, with a shift from positive to negative rheotaxy. Our results underline the difficulty to install retrofitted bypass system on old existing hydropower plants. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [less ▲]

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See detailFish habitat selection in a large hydropeaking river: Strong individual and temporal variations revealed by telemetry
Capra, Hervé; Plichard, Laura; Bergé, Julien et al

in Science of the Total Environment (2017), 578

Modeling individual fish habitat selection in highly variable environments such as hydropeaking rivers is required for guiding efficient management decisions. We analyzed fish microhabitat selection in ... [more ▼]

Modeling individual fish habitat selection in highly variable environments such as hydropeaking rivers is required for guiding efficient management decisions. We analyzed fish microhabitat selection in the heterogeneous hydraulic and thermal conditions (modeled in two-dimensions) of a reach of the large hydropeaking Rhône River locally warmed by the cooling system of a nuclear power plant. We used modern fixed acoustic telemetry techniques to survey 18 fish individuals (five barbels, six catfishes, seven chubs) signaling their position every 3 s over a three-month period. Fish habitat selection depended on combinations of current microhabitat hydraulics (e.g. velocity, depth), past microhabitat hydraulics (e.g. dewatering risk or maximum velocities during the past 15 days) and to a lesser extent substrate and temperature. Mixed-effects habitat selection models indicated that individual effects were often stronger than specific effects. In the Rhône, fish individuals appear to memorize spatial and temporal environmental changes and to adopt a “least constraining” habitat selection. Avoiding fast-flowing midstream habitats, fish generally live along the banks in areas where the dewatering risk is high. When discharge decreases, however, they select higher velocities but avoid both dewatering areas and very fast-flowing midstream habitats. Although consistent with the available knowledge on static fish habitat selection, our quantitative results demonstrate temporal variations in habitat selection, depending on individual behavior and environmental history. Their generality could be further tested using comparative experiments in different environmental configurations. [less ▲]

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See detailConvention relative à la réhabilitation du Saumon atlantique dans le bassin de la Meuse (Rapport 2015-2016)
Ovidio, Michaël ULiege; Dierckx, Arnaud ULiege; Benitez, Jean-Philippe ULiege et al

Report (2016)

Le présent rapport d’activités intègre les travaux des deux équipes universitaires de Liège et de Namur (coordination Ulg – Dr M. Ovidio) dans la cadre de la subvention relative à la réhabilitation du ... [more ▼]

Le présent rapport d’activités intègre les travaux des deux équipes universitaires de Liège et de Namur (coordination Ulg – Dr M. Ovidio) dans la cadre de la subvention relative à la réhabilitation du saumon atlantique dans le bassin de la Meuse. [less ▲]

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See detailDynamics of upstream movements of the European eel Anguilla anguilla in an inland area of the River Meuse over the last 20 years
Nzau Matondo, Billy ULiege; Ovidio, Michaël ULiege

in Environmental Biology of Fishes (2016), 99

The dynamics of upstream movements of the yellow eel Anguilla anguilla were investigated at Lixhe on the Belgian River Meuse in an inland fish pass regularly monitored from 1992 to 2014. Based on a ... [more ▼]

The dynamics of upstream movements of the yellow eel Anguilla anguilla were investigated at Lixhe on the Belgian River Meuse in an inland fish pass regularly monitored from 1992 to 2014. Based on a constant year-to-year sampling effort, we examined the abundance of ascending yellow eels and their body size, seasonal movement, and the associated water temperature and flow. Over the last 23 years, the number of ascending yellow eels has declined at an average 4.2% per year since 1992. The abundance of eels in 2014 is estimated at 4.5% of the ascending stock in 1992. We observed that some annual variations in eel abundance at Lixhe might be related to opening fish passes downstream of the study site. The results clearly demonstrated that long-term declining abundance of eels has resulted in increased sizes (mean increase, 4.1 mm per year since 1992) and temperatures triggering the upstream movement process (1.03°C per decade), with earlier dates for the last eel passages reducing the difference between temperature extremes of eel passages through the fish pass during the migration season. Eel movements occurred in spring and summer at low river discharge and were mainly triggered by high-temperature events. Eels have become larger with time because of improved feeding opportunities and more growth habitats available resulting from the long-term reduction in recruitment. This study highlights the importance of investigating long time spans for a better comprehension of the changes observed in yellow eels and for the optimization of management measures and future research. [less ▲]

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See detailIs adult translocation a credible way to accelerate the recolonization process of Chondrostoma nasus in a rehabilitated river?
Ovidio, Michaël ULiege; Hanzen, Céline; Gennotte, Vincent ULiege et al

in Cybium (2016), 40(1), 43-49

The decline of the patrimonial rheophilic nase, Chondrostoma nasus (Linnaeus, 1758) populations was mainly caused by construction of dams and hydroelectric power-plants, together with the straightening ... [more ▼]

The decline of the patrimonial rheophilic nase, Chondrostoma nasus (Linnaeus, 1758) populations was mainly caused by construction of dams and hydroelectric power-plants, together with the straightening and artificialization of the river banks and water pollution. In this study, we tested the hypothesis whether the translocation of few adult nase individuals from a river stretch to another upstream may be a credible way to accelerate the recolonization process of the species in the Amblève River (Southern Belgium). In February and March 2011, just before their spawning period, eight adult nases (462-509 mm; 1546-2002 g; presumed males and females) were captured in the lower part of the River Amblève. Fin clip samples were stored in alcohol for further genetic analysis. They were equipped with a 14 g radio transmitter and translocated upstream in a 18 km river stretch, where the species had disappeared since decades due to river anthropization. They were manually located two to five times/week using mobile receivers until maximum June 2012 (n = 977 locations). River temperature and flow were hourly recorded during the entire tracking period. The tagged nase individuals displayed various mobility patterns, exploited different areas of the river stretch, occupied longitudinal home ranges from 3.4 to 36.1 km (one individual finally left the new river stretch) and travelled total distances from 12.2 to 186.6 km. The tagged individuals were most of the times apart from one to another, but most individuals grouped together in potential spawning areas in late March-early April 2011, suggesting an attempt to reproduce. In September 2011, electric fishing in two potential detected spawning sites allowed to capture 16 juvenile (0+) nases, demonstrating the existence of spawning activity in the newly occupied river stretch. Individual genetic characterization was performed in 2014 in order to reveal a possible direct lineage between juveniles and adults. Allelic distribution of 22 microsatellite markers unambiguously identified the 16 juveniles as full-sib progeny descending from two of the translocated adults. This demonstrated that the adult nases succeeded to find spawning areas and that progeny found raised-up from the translocated individuals. [less ▲]

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See detailRecent decline of roach Rutilus rutilus stock in a large river ecosystem in relation with its population dynamics
Otjacques, William; Latli, Adrien; Bernard, Benoît et al

in Fundamental and Applied Limnology (2015), 187(2), 151-163

Studies dealing with quantitative decline of freshwater fish species with long-time series data are rather scarce and primarily limited to migratory species. We present an original work integrating over ... [more ▼]

Studies dealing with quantitative decline of freshwater fish species with long-time series data are rather scarce and primarily limited to migratory species. We present an original work integrating over two decades investigations on roach (Rutilus rutilus L.) stock, one of the dominant cyprinid fish species in the River Meuse (Belgium). This study aimed to quantify changes in the stock of roach after recent indicators (captures from sport fishermen) suggested a sharp decline. Three methods were used: capture-mark-recapture (CMR) estimation, catch per unit of effort by gillnetting (CPUE) and long-term monitoring of fish-passes. Population dynamics of roach was also investigated. CMR method demonstrated a decrease of 91% of the roach stock compared to earlier data (1993–2003), with current densities close to 300 roach ha–1. This was also confirmed by a decrease of 95 % in CPUEs and a decrease between 93 and 98 % in two fish-passes during the same period. On the other hand, growth and mortality did not indicate radical changes before and after the decline was found. As roach stock decline is generalizable to the whole Belgian’s Meuse following estimations in two other sites, further investigations are needed to explain the reasons underlying this decline in order to take conservation measures. First, the uptake of primary production (i.e. phytoplankton) by invasive clams is supposed. And secondly, an increase in predation pressure by the Great Cormorant is effective as this avian predator was found in high densities from 2000 until 2006. [less ▲]

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