Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Effects of Stage 0 Stream Restoration on Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Production

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  • Contemporary stream restoration efforts increasingly prioritize restoring natural stream processes to regain lost ecosystem functions. Stage 0 stream restoration resets disturbed, channelized streams to a theoretical pre-disturbance state (“stage zero”). It is assumed that this valley-scale restoration/disturbance will restore natural abiotic and biotic processes, leading to greater primary and secondary biological productivity, maximizing potential ecosystem services such as the abundance of desirable fish species. As stage 0 restoration projects have been implemented in Oregon and across North America, post-restoration studies have not fully assessed this assumption. In this study, I seasonally sampled aquatic macroinvertebrate communities and fish diets on the South Fork McKenzie River, OR in a reach that underwent stage 0 restoration in 2018, as well as two upstream, unrestored control reaches. I estimated total annual secondary macroinvertebrate production on the benthos and submerged wood surfaces, and constructed food webs from the dominant taxa found in fish diets. Contrary to expectations, annual production estimates were ~5-times lower on a per-meter-squared basis in the restored reach than in upstream unrestored reaches. However, because there was ~4.5-times greater wetted area available in the restored reach, overall macroinvertebrate production per-unit of valley length was 1.5-times higher than in unrestored reaches. Fish diet assemblages were also more complex in the treatment reach than in the control reaches. Additionally, a greater diversity of macroinvertebrate community assemblages was observed in the restored reach, suggesting that stage 0 restoration may produce a heterogeneous mosaic of fine-scale habitat patches and associated metapopulations. These findings suggest that stage 0 restoration may increase overall macroinvertebrate productivity, as well as creating a more diverse assembly of prey items, resulting in more consistent prey availability and greater overall habitat and foraging opportunities for fishes.
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