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Effectiveness of shallow water habitat remediation for improving fish habitat in a large temperate river

Fischer, Jason L., Roseman, Edward F., Mayer, Christine M., Qian, Song
Ecological engineering 2018 v.123 pp. 54-64
Centrarchidae, Cottus bairdii, adults, endangered species, game fish, gillnets, habitat destruction, habitats, hydraulic structures, juveniles, minnows, models, rare species, remediation, riparian areas, rivers, sampling, shorelines, species diversity, surveys, temperate zones, traps, United States
Loss of shallow water riparian zones in the St. Clair River has reduced availability of nursery areas and refuge for fishes. To remediate habitat losses and provide fish nursery areas, five remediation projects were carried out along the river’s United States bank from 2012 to 2014, replacing seawalls with sloping banks and adding in-stream structure (e.g., root wads and boulders). Project evaluation is necessary to determine success, however there is no standard sampling protocol for shallow habitat in large rivers, especially when both adults and juvenile fishes should be targeted. Therefore, to assess remediation effectiveness and suggest appropriate sampling techniques for large river shorelines, we employed a multi-gear sampling strategy targeting multiple fish species and life history stages at five shoreline remediation and four control sites. We collected juvenile fishes with minnow traps and backpack electrofishing and adult fishes with gillnets. Poisson models were used to evaluate catch per unit effort (CPUE) differences between remediation and control sites for species of management priority (e.g., game fishes and rare species) and taxonomic groups. Model estimates were then used to calculate proportional abundances and compare species composition between site types. Results indicated that electrofishing CPUEs of Darters, mottled sculpin Cottus bairdi, rare threatened and endangered species, and juvenile and adult Centrarchidae were higher at remediation sites than at control sites. Additionally, juvenile Centrarchidae and mottled sculpin had a higher proportional abundance in electrofishing collections at remediation sites than at control sites. In contrast, CPUEs and proportional abundances were similar for all taxonomic and management priority groups of fish collected in minnow traps and gillnets. Electrofishing captured more species and more individuals and is therefore a valuable sampling technique for large river shorelines. Nevertheless, addition of minnow traps and gillnets allowed for a more comprehensive assessment of fish assemblages. Overall, this multi-faceted survey approach demonstrates that shoreline remediation projects were beneficial to recreational and ecologically important species in the St. Clair River.