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Measuring beta diversity components and beneficial effects of coarse woody habitat introduction on invertebrate and macrophyte communities in a shallow northern boreal lake; implications for offsetting

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Structural habitat enhancement has been long established as a popular tool to counter habitat loss due to land-use and development. One enhancement approach is the introduction of Coarse Woody Habitat (CWH) to improve the establishment of macrophyte, macroinvertebrate, and fish communities. Here we test for the effects of CWH in Northern boreal lakes in the context of mitigation projects. We constructed Coarse Woody Habitat structures in a structure-less littoral zone of Lake Steepbank within the Oil Sands Region of Alberta, Canada. Enhancement structures featured increased macrophyte and invertebrate richness and biomass compared to reference sites and pre-treatment assessments over three years. Enhanced sites also retained improved richness (macrophytes), diversity (macroinvertebrates), and biomass (both), despite STIN loss and degradation of enhancement structures over time. Using beta diversity components, constituting richness agreement, community differentiation, and site relationships, and testing their relative importance revealed that replacement was more dominant for invertebrates and increasing similarity more important for macrophyte communities post-enhancement. Our study shows the value of CWH addition for macroinvertebrate and macrophyte communities in what is otherwise a structure-less environment. Community changes over time showcase how beta diversity should be more strongly incorporated in restoration and enhancement studies to quantify community shifts that otherwise would not be captured in alternative diversity measures.

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Data is available through figshare: 10.6084/m9.figshare.16371525.


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Correspondence to Sebastian Theis.

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See Fig. 7

Fig. 7
figure 7

Structural Integrity (STIN) assessment for coarse wood bundles and whole tree structures a as part of the Coarse Woody Habitat (CWH) study in Lakeland County, Northern Alberta, 1-week, 1-month, 1-year and 2-years post construction related to mean biomass, richness and diversity changes in aquatic macroinvertebrates and invertebrates b. Significant differences in STIN values are indicated by Holm corrected p-values (accepted alpha < 0.05). Whole tree structures STIN over time: n = 10; df = 3; chi-square = 33.936; p < 0.001. Coarse wood bundles STIN over time: n = 10; df = 3; chi-square = 27.176; p < 0.001


See Tables 1, 2 and 3

Table 1 Structural assessment of the littoral zone of the study lake Lake Steepbank
Table 2 Structural integrity (SI) assessment scores for coarse wood bundles and whole tree structures as part of the coarse woody habitat (CWH) study on Lake Steepbank, Lakeland County, Alberta
Table 3 Full list of R-packages used for analyses


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Theis, S., Ruppert, J.L.W., Shirton, J.R. et al. Measuring beta diversity components and beneficial effects of coarse woody habitat introduction on invertebrate and macrophyte communities in a shallow northern boreal lake; implications for offsetting. Aquat Ecol 56, 793–814 (2022).

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