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Impacts of stream riparian buffer land use on water temperature and food availability for fish

Albertson, Lindsey K., Ouellet, Valerie, Daniels, Melinda D.
Journal of freshwater ecology 2018 v.33 no.1 pp. 195-210
Salvelinus fontinalis, aquatic insects, community structure, fish, food availability, food composition, food webs, forests, freshwater ecosystems, habitat conservation, habitats, land use, meadows, multivoltine habit, riparian areas, riparian buffers, streams, water quality, water temperature, Pennsylvania
Restoration of degraded freshwater ecosystems has gained considerable attention in the USA over the past decades. However, most projects focus almost entirely on the restoration of physical habitat or specific water quality parameters, while ignoring critical ecological processes related to food web re-establishment. In this study, we investigate the impact of riparian habitat in different stages of restoration on food availability for fish in four streams in Pennsylvania, USA. The riparian buffer habitats ranged from open meadow to mature forest and included new to long-term restoration sites. We quantified abundance and community composition of aquatic macroinvertebrates and riparian arthropods with aerial and ground-dwelling life history strategies. We found that riparian habitat and water temperature exert a strong influence over potential food resources for fish, with the open meadow habitat having highest abundance of terrestrial and aquatic insects, lowest taxa richness, and possible multivoltine aquatic insect life-history. Our results provide insight into the importance of riparian buffer habitat and water temperature on the composition of food availability for fish species of concern such as brook trout. The significant differences emphasize the need to include food web dynamics into riparian habitat restoration design to guide future rehabilitation projects focusing on fish conservation.