Response of imperiled Okaloosa darters to stream restoration

North American Journal of Fisheries Management
By: , and 

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Abstract

The Okaloosa Darter Etheostoma okaloosae is a small percid endemic to six stream drainages in northwestern Florida. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Okaloosa Darters as endangered in 1973 and downlisted them to threatened in 2011 because of habitat improvements and increasing abundance across much of their geographic range. Delisting is possible if remaining recovery criteria are met, including restoration of degraded stream reaches. Impounded reaches of Anderson Branch, Mill Creek, and Toms Creek were restored by removing impediments to water flow, draining impoundments, and reconstructing stream reaches. Restorations of Anderson Branch and Mill Creek were designed to rehabilitate populations of Okaloosa Darters without significantly affecting popular recreational activities at these locations. Restorations were evaluated from 2007 to 2013 by comparing counts of Okaloosa Darters and the composition of microhabitats in restored and nearby undisturbed reference sites. Okaloosa Darters were absent from degraded stream reaches at the beginning of the study, but they rapidly colonized once restorations were completed. Counts of Okaloosa Darters in reference and restoration sites in Anderson Branch were similar by the end of the study, whereas counts in restoration sites were significantly lower than nearby reference sites in Mill and Toms creeks. Restoration sites tended to have lower coverage of sand and root and higher coverage of macrophytes. As riparian vegetation surrounding restoration sites matures to a closed canopy that reduces excessive growth of macrophytes, stream microhabitats and numbers of darters will probably become similar to reference sites. Restoration of degraded stream sites increased abundance and distribution of Okaloosa Darters and reconnected formerly isolated upstream and downstream populations. These projects demonstrated that restoration is a useful conservation tool for imperiled fishes such as Okaloosa Darters and can be undertaken without interfering with popular recreational activities.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Response of imperiled Okaloosa darters to stream restoration
Series title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
DOI 10.1080/02755947.2016.1227402
Volume 36
Issue 6
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher American Fisheries Society
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 11 p.
First page 1375
Last page 1385
Country United States
State Florida