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Cascading Ecological Responses to an In-Stream Restoration Project in a Midwestern River

Authors

  • Kaleb K. Heinrich,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology and Center for Ecology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, U.S.A.
    2. Present address: Stream Ecology Center, Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID, 83209, U.S.A.
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  • Matt R. Whiles,

    1. Department of Zoology and Center for Ecology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, U.S.A.
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  • Charlotte Roy

    1. Wetland Wildlife Populations and Research Group, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Bemidji, MN, U.S.A.
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Abstract

River restoration projects are increasingly common, but assessments of ecological responses and overall success of the vast majority of efforts are lacking. Information on potential positive ecological effects of restoration efforts can be used to justify further projects and refine methods. We examined responses of multiple trophic levels, aquatic insects and riparian birds, to a series of rock weirs installed in an Illinois river to stabilize the channel. We quantified adult insect emergence and performed weekly point counts of birds in spring at four weir and four non-weir (control) sites. Emerging insect abundance was higher at control sites, but species richness and diversity were higher at weir sites. Total insect emergence production did not differ between site types, but emergence production of larger-bodied taxa was higher at weir sites. Ordinations and analysis of similarity indicated differences in insect and bird assemblages between site types. Birds showed a positive numerical response to large-bodied emerging insects, and total bird abundance was higher at weir sites. Clutch size and feeding rates of a focal bird species, Prothonotaria citrea (Prothonotary Warbler), did not differ between sites, but the number of hatchlings and fledglings was higher at control sites. Molothrus ater (cowbird) parasitism was higher at weir sites, likely because of increased edge habitat associated with weir construction activities. Results show positive ecological impacts of in-stream restoration and provide justification for further efforts. However, forest disturbance associated with construction could offset some benefits to some species, and thus refinements to procedures may be necessary.

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