Rapid ecosystem response to restoration in an urban stream

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Biological Sciences

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Stream restoration seeks to re-establish ecological structure and function of river systems, and understanding its ecological consequences is a current focus of stream ecology. To characterize the short-term ecosystem response to restoration in an urbanized Pacific Northwest stream, we measured whole-system ammonium and phosphorus uptake, benthic and drifting aquatic insects, and fish community composition before and after restoration. We predicted that (1) nutrient demand would temporarily decrease ammonium and phosphorus concentrations, (2) periphyton accrual would structure the insect consumer response, and (3) restoration would change the fish community. After restoration, nutrient demand for ammonium and phosphorus temporarily increased to levels that have rarely been reported, but demand for both recovered to background levels within 35 days. Aquatic insect density tracked rapid periphyton accrual after restoration, and benthic insect density stabilized in less than a month whereas composition continued changing for 10 weeks. Within 11 months, the fish community returned to its pre-restoration composition dominated by non-native eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Restoration did not alter the community and ecosystem metrics we studied, but this urban stream underwent rapid succession during restoration-induced disturbance, perhaps because urban streams have resilient communities well-suited to rapid recovery.


This article was originally published in Hydrobiologia. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015