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Title: Dispersal Limitations on Fish Community Recovery Following Long-term Water Quality Remediation

Holistic restoration approaches, such as water quality remediation, are likely to meet conservation objectives because they are typically implemented at watershed scales, as opposed to individual stream reaches. However, habitat fragmentation may impose constraints on the ecological effectiveness of holistic restoration strategies by limiting colonization following remediation. We questioned the importance of dispersal limitations to fish community recovery following long-term water quality remediation and species reintroductions across the White Oak Creek (WOC) watershed near Oak Ridge, Tennessee (USA). Long-term (26 years) responses in fish species richness and biomass to water quality remediation were evaluated in light of habitat fragmentation and population isolation from instream barriers, which varied in their passage potential. In addition, ordination techniques were used to determine the relative importance of habitat connectivity and water quality, in explaining variation fish communities relative to environmental fluctuations, i.e. streamflow. Ecological recovery (changes in richness) at each site was negatively related to barrier index, a measure of community isolation by barriers relative to stream distance. Following species reintroductions, dispersal by fish species was consistently in the downstream direction and upstream passage above barriers was non-existent. The importance of barrier index in explaining variation in fish communities was stronger during higher flowmore » conditions, but decreased over time an indication of increasing community stability and loss of seasonal migrants. Compared to habitat fragmentation, existing water quality concerns (i.e., outfalls, point source discharges) were unrelated to ecological recovery, but explained relatively high variation in community dynamics. Our results suggest that habitat fragmentation limited the ecological effectiveness of intensive water quality remediation efforts and fish reintroduction efforts by impeding recolonization at isolated stream reaches.« less
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  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
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Accepted Manuscript
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Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: Hydrobiologia; Journal ID: ISSN 0018-8158
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
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Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; restoration; stream barriers; habitat fragmentation
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