Use of seasonal freshwater wetlands by fishes in a temperate river floodplain

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This study examined the use of freshwater wetland restoration and enhancement projects (i.e. non-estuarine wetlands subject to seasonal drying) by fish populations. To quantify fish use of freshwater emergent wetlands and assess the effect of wetland enhancement (i.e. addition of water control structures), two enhanced and two unenhanced emergent wetlands were compared, as well as two oxbow habitats within the Chehalis River floodplain. Eighteen fish species were captured using fyke nets and emigrant traps from January to the beginning of June, with the most abundant being three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus and Olympic mudminnow Novumbra hubbsi. Coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch was the dominant salmonid at all sites. Enhanced wetlands, with their extended hydroperiods, had significantly higher abundances of yearling coho salmon than unenhanced wetlands. Both enhanced and unenhanced emergent wetlands yielded higher abundances of non-game native fishes than oxbow habitats. Oxbow habitats, however, were dominated by coho salmon. Fish survival in the wetland habitats was dependent on emigration to the river before dissolved oxygen concentrations decreased and wetlands became isolated and stranding occurred. This study suggests that wetland enhancement projects with an outlet to the river channel appear to provide fishes with important temporary habitats if they have the opportunity to leave the wetland as dissolved oxygen levels deteriorate.
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