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Impacts of Channel Reconstruction on Invertebrate Assemblages in a Restored River

Authors


L. K. Albertson, email albertson@lifesci.ucsb.edu

Abstract

Ecosystem restoration often aims to recreate the physical habitat needed to support a particular life-stage of a focal species. For example, river channel reconstruction, a common restoration practice along the Pacific coast, is typically used to enhance spawning habitat for adult Chinook salmon, a species experiencing large population declines. These restoration efforts rarely consider, however, that altering spawning habitat could have indirect effects on other life-stages, such as juveniles, which might occur if, e.g. reconstruction alters the benthic food web. To determine how channel reconstruction impacts benthic macroinvertebrates, juvenile Chinook's primary prey, we conducted two studies at a restoration site in the Merced River, California. We asked (1) has gravel enhancement altered invertebrate assemblages in the restored reach compared with an unrestored reach? and, if so, (2) can shifts in the invertebrate community be explained by increased substrate mobility and by reduced heterogeneity that results from restoration? We show that invertebrate abundance and biomass were lower in the restored reach and that these changes were accompanied by a shift from dominance by filter-feeding caddisflies (Hydropsyche) in the unrestored reach to grazing mayflies (Baetis) in the restored reach. Using an in situ manipulation, we demonstrated that this trend was driven by increased substrate mobility that reduces the abundance of Hydropsyche and by decreased substrate heterogeneity that reduces the abundance of Baetis. Our studies suggest that geomorphic changes typical of reconstructed rivers can alter food webs in ways that may have important implications for supporting the focal species of restoration efforts.

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