Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Channel incision has major impacts on stream corridor ecosystems, leading to reduced spatial habitat heterogeneity, greater temporal instability, less stream-floodplain interaction, and shifts in fish community structure. Most literature dealing with channel incision examines physical processes and erosion control. A study of incised warmwater stream rehabilitation was conducted to develop and demonstrate techniques that would be economically feasible for integration with more orthodox, extensively employed watershed stabilization techniques (e.g., structural bank protection, grade control structures, small reservoirs, and land treatment). One-km reaches of each of five northwest Mississippi streams with contributing drainage areas between 16 and 205 km2 were selected for a 5-year study. During the study two reaches were modified by adding woody vegetation and stone structure to rehabilitate habitats degraded by erosion and channelization. The other three reaches provided reference data, as two of them were degraded but not rehabilitated, and the third was only lightly degraded. Rehabilitation approaches were guided by conceptual models of incised channel evolution and fish community structure in small warmwater streams. These models indicated that rehabilitation efforts should focus on aggradational reaches in the downstream portions of incising watersheds, and that ecological status could be improved by inducing formation and maintenance of stable pool habitats. Fish and physical habitat attributes were sampled from each stream during the Spring and Fall for 5 years, and thalweg and cross-section surveys were performed twice during the same period. Rehabilitation increased pool habitat availability, and made the treated sites physically more similar to the lightly degraded reference site. Fish communities generally responded as suggested by the aforementioned conceptual model of fish community structure. Species composition shifted away from small colonists (principally cyprinids and small centrarchids) toward larger centrarchids, catostomids, and ictalurids. Fish density and species richness increased at one rehabilitated site but remained stable at the other, suggesting that the sites occupied different initial states and endpoints within the conceptual model, and differed in their accessibility to sources of colonizing organisms. These experiments suggest that major gains in stream ecosystem rehabilitation can be made through relatively modest but well-designed efforts to modify degraded physical habitats.
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