Environmental Management

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1047–1063

Application of Biochemical and Physiological Indicators for Assessing Recovery of Fish Populations in a Disturbed Stream



Recovery dynamics in a previously disturbed stream were investigated to determine the influence of a series of remedial actions on stream recovery and to evaluate the potential application of bioindicators as an environmental management tool. A suite of bioindicators, representing five different functional response groups, were measured annually for a sentinel fish species over a 15 year period during which a variety of remedial and pollution abatement actions were implemented. Trends in biochemical, physiological, condition, growth, bioenergetic, and nutritional responses demonstrated that the health status of a sentinel fish species in the disturbed stream approached that of fish in the reference stream by the end of the study. Two major remedial actions, dechlorination and water flow management, had large effects on stream recovery resulting in an improvement in the bioenergetic, disease, nutritional, and organ condition status of the sentinel fish species. A subset of bioindicators responded rather dramatically to temporal trends affecting all sites, but some indicators showed little response to disturbance or to restoration activities. In assessing recovery of aquatic systems, application of appropriate integrative structural indices along with a variety of sensitive functional bioindicators should be used to understand the mechanistic basis of stress and recovery and to reduce the risk of false positives. Understanding the mechanistic processes involved between stressors, stress responses of biota, and the recovery dynamics of aquatic systems reduces the uncertainty involved in environmental management and regulatory decisions resulting in an increased ability to predict the consequences of restoration and remedial actions for aquatic systems.


Stream recovery Disturbance Fish populations Physiological responses Environmental stress 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA

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