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The Long-Term Effectiveness of Fish Habitat Restoration Practices: Lawrence Creek, Wisconsin

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Although many streams in North America have been rehabilitated to improve the habitat of salmonids, little is known about the long-term impacts of such practices on salmonid habitats and on river dynamics. The success of these improvement schemes is often assessed a short time after the work is completed and is usually based on changes in the targeted biological populations. This article examines the long-term effects of bank-cover deflectors on the physical fish habitat and on the channel morphology. The study was conducted on Lawrence Creek, a small stream in Wisconsin, where trout habitat had been affected negatively by intense cattle grazing. Data on the physical habitat and on channel morphology were collected on a 600-m-long reach in 1963 (immediately prior to the rehabilitation work), in 1966, and in 1999. In the upstream section, the channel flows through a moraine deposit where bed material is coarser than the material of the outwash plain found in the downstream portion of the reach. Results indicate that fish habitat in 1999 was better than in 1963 but has deteriorated substantially since 1966. Pool area increased from 267 m2 to 625 m2 between 1963 and 1966, but has decreased to 488 m2 since then. Most of this deterioration, however, is concentrated in the morainic section. In the outwash plain, the deflectors are still in good condition, and the area occupied by pools has remained constant since 1966. In the morainic section, most structures are no longer efficient and the channel is unstable due to high bed-shear stress values, which entrain bed and bank erosion. Effective long-term rehabilitation schemes should therefore carefully consider the varying sensitivity of river reaches due to different geomorphic contexts.

Keywords: flow deflectors; geomorphic context; physical fish habitat; stream restoration

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Environnement Canada, Service Météorologique du Canada 2: Department of Geography, Concordia University 3: Département de Géographie, Université de Montréal

Publication date: March 1, 2003


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