Habitat enhancement and native fish conservation: can enhancement of channel complexity promote the coexistence of native and introduced fishes?
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Native fishes worldwide have declined as a consequence of habitat loss and degradation and introduction of non-native species. In response to these declines, river restoration projects have been initiated to enhance habitat and remove introduced fishes; however, non-native fish removal is not always logistically feasible or socially acceptable. Consequently, managers often seek to enhance degraded habitat in such a way that native fishes can coexist with introduced species. We quantified dynamics of fish communities to three newly constructed side channels in the Provo River, Utah, USA, to determine if and how they promoted coexistence between native fishes (nine species) and non-native brown trout (Salmo trutta L.). Native and introduced fishes responded differently in each side channel as a function of the unique characteristics and histories of side channels. Beaver activity in two of the three side channels caused habitat differentiation or channel isolation that facilitated the establishment of native species. The third side channel had greater connectivity to and similar habitat as the main channel of the Provo River, resulting in a similar fish community to main channel habitats (i.e. dominated by brown trout with only a few native fish species). These results demonstrate the importance of understanding habitat preferences for each species in a community to guide habitat enhancement projects and the need to create refuge habitats for native fishes.
KeywordsRiver restoration Side channel Stream fish Habitat heterogeneity Refuge habitat Fish conservation Brown trout
Funding was provided by the Utah Mitigation Restoration and Conservation Commission, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), and the Departments of Biology and Plant and Wildlife Sciences at Brigham Young University. Data for main channel surveys were provided by UDWR. Activities were conducted under permits obtained from the UDWR. Craig Ellsworth and Sage Kelley provided assistance during snorkeling surveys.
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