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A toolkit for optimizing fish passage barrier mitigation actions
- King, Steven, O'Hanley, Jesse R., Newbold, Lynda R., Kemp, Paul S., Diebel, Matthew W.
- Journal of applied ecology 2017 v.54 no.2 pp. 599-611
- case studies, decision making, ecological restoration, ecosystems, fish, infrastructure, linear programming, models, planning, prioritization, regression analysis, rivers, species diversity, streams, watersheds, weirs, England
- The presence of dams, stream–road crossings and other infrastructure often compromises the connectivity of rivers, leading to reduced fish abundance and diversity. The assessment and mitigation of river barriers is critical to the success of restoration efforts aimed at restoring river integrity. In this study, we present a combined modelling approach involving statistical regression methods and mixed integer linear programming to maximize resident fish species richness within a catchment through targeted barrier mitigation. Compared to existing approaches, our proposed method provides enhanced biological realism while avoiding the use of complex and computationally intensive population/ecosystem models. To estimate barrier passability quickly and at low cost, we further outline a rapid barrier assessment methodology. The methodology is used to characterize potential passage barriers for various fish species common to the UK but can be readily adapted to different planning areas and other species of interest. We demonstrate the applicability of our barrier assessment and prioritization approach based on a case study of the River Wey, located in south‐east England. We find that significant increases in species richness can be achieved for modest investment in barrier mitigation. In particular, dams and weirs with low passability located on mid‐ to high‐order streams are identified as top priorities for mitigation. Synthesis and applications. Our study shows the benefits of combining a coarse resolution barrier assessment methodology with state‐of‐the‐art optimization modelling to cost‐effectively plan fish passage barrier mitigation actions. The modelling approach can help inform on‐the‐ground river restoration decision‐making by providing a recommended course of action that best allocates limited resources in order to restore longitudinal connectivity and maximize ecological gains.