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Long-term fish community response to a reach-scale stream restoration

Patrick D. Shirey, University of Notre Dame, Department of Biological Sciences; Ecology Policy LLC
Michael A. Brueseke, University of Notre Dame, Department of Biological Sciences
Jillian B. Kenny, University of Notre Dame, Department of Biological Sciences; World Resources Institute
Gary A. Lamberti, University of Notre Dame, Department of Biological Sciences


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At a global scale, aquatic ecosystems are being altered by human activities at a greater rate than at any other time in history. In recent years, grassroots efforts have generated interest in the restoration of degraded or destroyed aquatic habitats, especially small wetlands and streams where such projects are feasible with local resources. We present ecological management lessons learned from 17 years of monitoring the fish community response to the channel relocation and reach-level restoration of Juday Creek, a 3rd-order tributary of the St. Joseph River in Indiana, USA. The project was designed to increase habitat complexity, reverse the effects of accumulated fine sediment (< 2 mm diameter), and mitigate for the impacts of a new golf course development. The 1997 restoration consisted of new channel construction within two reaches of a 1.2-km section of Juday Creek that also contained two control reaches. A primary social goal of the golf course development and stream restoration was to avoid harm to the non-native brown trout fishery, as symbolic of community concerns for the watershed. Our long-term monitoring effort revealed that, although fine sediment increased over time in the restored reaches, habitat conditions have promoted the resurgence of native fish species. Since restoration, the fish assemblage has shifted from non-native Salmonidae (brown trout, rainbow trout) to native Centrarchidae (rock bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass). In addition, native, nongame species have remained stable or have increased in population abundance (e.g., Johnny darter, mottled sculpin). The results of this study demonstrate the value of learning from a restoration project to adjust management decisions that enhance environmental quality.

Key words

conservation; fisheries; long-term monitoring; restoration planning; stream ecology

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087