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An Ecosystem Model for Exploring Lake Restoration Effects on Fish Communities and Fisheries in Florida

Rogers, Mark W., Allen, Micheal S.
Restoration ecology 2012 v.20 no.5 pp. 612-622
animal communities, ecological restoration, ecosystems, edge effects, fisheries, game fish, habitat conservation, lakes, models, Florida
Developing quantitative ecosystem–scale expectations of habitat restoration projects and examining trade‐offs associated with alternative approaches has been a challenge for restoration ecology. Many of the largest freshwater lake restoration projects have occurred in Florida to remediate degradation to vegetated littoral habitats resulting from stabilized water levels, but effects across lake food‐webs have not been assessed. We developed an ecosystem model using Ecopath with Ecosim and Ecospace for a generalized large, eutrophic Florida Lake to explore how simulated restoration activities could influence fish communities with emphasis on sport fish abundance. We modeled three habitat restoration scenarios: (1) “no control,” (2) a “10‐year control” that restored littoral habitat every 10 years, and (3) a “combined control” scenario that restored littoral habitat every 10 years with maintenance controls between 10‐year periods. Our “combined control” scenario provided the largest long‐term habitat restoration benefits for sport fish abundance and the fisheries they support. In Ecospace, we simulated a littoral habitat restoration project that reduced lake‐wide tussock coverage from 30 to 15%. Ecospace predicted positive benefits to sport fish and fisheries following the restoration simulation and highlighted the importance of habitat edge effects, spatial design of habitat restoration projects, and sampling designs for evaluating restoration projects.