It is one of the precepts all students are taught in medical school. It reminds a physician that he or she must always consider the possible harm any intervention might cause. It also applies quite accurately to the process of restoring rivers, wetlands and uplands. The very act of “restoring” any resource or habitat implies that you do no harm.
Our natural environment plays host to an immense variety of species, many of them microscopic. Whether reducing excessive erosion or enhancing habitat for fish, we not only tread lightly on the delicate ecosystems that exist, we strive to protect and enhance it. >Learn More about EcoBlu!
Water news and alerts continued to receive notice throughout 2014. Severe drought as well as dramatic flooding again topped U.S. headlines. My personal Top Water Wishes for the New Year include a quick look back at some of the important water stories that streamed through our offices this past year.
For nearly twenty years, Trout Headwaters and its clients have focused considerable energy and investment on trout habitat restoration. Our work has been to restore cold water habitats across the U.S., increasing biodiversity and restoring ecological function. Over this time unfortunately we have been witness to lots of invasive management and restoration techniques which damaged stream and wetlands systems, including inappropriate hatchery stockings. Some of these damaging so-called “restoration” projects were simply accidents or catastrophes (depending on scale) others have been part of some accepted ill-informed management strategy. See “Rotenone? 1952 Called and Wants Its Fisheries Management Strategy Back” for a pertinent example.
Predictions note that trout habitat likely will be slashed in half due to climate change by the year 2080, according to a recent study, with native cutthroat trout expected to see the most severe decline. The study, published in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also predicts a decline in introduced brook trout populations by as much as 77 percent, while rainbow and brown trout populations could also decline by an estimated 35 percent and 48 percent, respectively. Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_57d0ed50-ac5a-574f-ab8e-10cc3dc2bead.html#ixzz1WR7ejE9x
The recent release of a report on the status of fish habitats in the United States titled THROUGH A FISH’S EYE: The Status of Fish Habitats In The United States 2010 is accompanied by the release of a map viewer, which offers the maps that are in the report in greater detail. The National Fish Habitat Action Plan map and data web tool was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Biological Informatics Program under guidance of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan Science and Data Committee. This tool not only enables users to see multiple views depicting the condition of stream and coastal habitats across the country, but also means that users can access more detailed information at finer scales, as well as the option to download data files and map services. >More
The National Fish Habitat Board ( www.fishhabitat.org ) has released a status of fish habitats in the United States report titled THROUGH A FISH’S EYE: The Status of Fish Habitats In The United States 2010. The first of its kind to synthesize information on a national level, the goal of the national assessment was to estimate disturbance levels to fish habitats in rivers and estuaries from information about human activities occurring in the watersheds and the local areas affecting each aquatic habitat.
The report reveals that overall, 27 percent of the miles of stream in the lower 48 states are at high or very high risk of current habitat degradation and an additional 29 percent are at moderate risk of current habitat degradation.
Over the past year, visitors to the EcoBlu blog have been reading about the “Native Fish Restoration” projects ongoing in Montana and elsewhere. These controversial projects involve clear-cutting the aquatic ecosystem with poison and then restocking with a fish monoculture. Increasingly, government agencies and conservation groups are promoting the 60-year-old practice as necessary to avoid species extinction at the hands of so-called “invasive” or “non-native” fish.
It is widely known that habitat destruction is the single greatest factor contributing to the current global species extinction problem (Pimm & Raven, 2000, pp. 843-845), NOT threats by invasive species. Habitatloss is due to growth of human populations including increased impacts resulting from agriculture and development.
Habitat destruction is “the process in which natural habitat is rendered functionally unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms which previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity.” If this sounds like a description for many ”native fish restoration” management plans, it is.
The crude and outdated technique of poisoning waterways and stocking fish from hatcheries further damages these critical at-risk native habitats. And while the technical simplicity of these “native fish restoration plans” may appear initially attractive, the poisoning/stocking efforts do not reduce habitat loss, do not reduce habitat damage, and do not diminish habitat fragmentation.
Clearly, our priority should be to do what was recommended by scientists writing in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 1997: “Conservation efforts should be aimed foremost at stopping habitat loss and at habitat restoration.” This solid and implementable native species conservation recommendation promotes biodiversity (and ecosystem integrity, resiliency and stability) ultimately helping to prevent extinctions.
Effective wetland enhancement and management requires an understanding of the interrelationships among habitats and resources needed by wetland wildlife to survive and reproduce. Optimizing value and use of wetlands is possible only if wetland structure and function is integrated with knowledge of habitat requirements and life-cycle events of wildlife.
A successfully managed wetland contains foods and cover of the type, quality and distribution that are the same, or functionally similar, to those found in natural, unmanaged wetlands. Creation, enhancement and management of wetlands should aim to provide resources that meet the physiological and behavioral needs of wildlife and emphasize the creation or restoration of natural wetland functions.
The capability of flight allows ducks and geese to exploit a variety of habitats in close proximity. Dabbling ducks use wetlands within an 8-mile radius to meet daily nutritional and physiological requirements. For this reason, providing a complex of different wetland types in a localized area often increases the overall diversity and density of waterfowl species. Wetlands are highly dynamic systems. The productivity and use of wetlands varies among years as well. Therefore, consistent, maximum use or production from any wetland every year should not be expected. The goal is to develop a healthy functioning wetland complex that provides the necessary habitat components to encourage waterfowl use. Request Free Report