Experimental Analysis of the Effects of Hydroscape Structure on Fishes in a Dynamic Wetland
Hydroscape structure can play a critical role in animal behavior, abundance, and community structure dynamics. Hydroscape configuration can be dynamic and can change quickly in ephemeral systems. However, ephemeral freshwater wetlands are among the most impacted systems in the world and restoration efforts often rely on incomplete information when establishing management objectives. Further understanding how alterations in hydroscape structure in dynamic systems affect animals is critical for conservation and management success. To determine impacts that changing hydroscape conditions can have on consumers in freshwater wetlands, I examined the effects of a large-scale physical model on fish behavior, abundance, and community structure. The physical model incorporated the restoration of sheetflow, canal-fill treatments, and the removal of a decades-old levee that divided two water management areas in the central Everglades. Small fishes modified directional movement behaviors and speed of movement before and after alterations took place, though behavioral responses varied widely by species. Density and community structure of small fishes did change as a function of canal-fill and levee removal treatments. Behaviors of large fishes were also affected by hydroscape alterations, as well as hydroscape configuration beyond the limited footprint of the physical model. Large fish abundance was altered by hydroscape alteration, particularly among certain species. Composition of the large fish community changed before and after hydroscape alteration, though magnitude of responses were site-specific. Effects of hydroscape structure proximity on trophic dynamics were examined using exclosure cages that excluded large predators but allowed access for small consumers. Exclosures were stratified according to proximity to a deep-water canal. Predator avoidance behaviors in small consumers were limited but present. Differences in behavior between sites may also be caused by differences in structure across sites and limited differences in nutrient quality. Behavioral, population, and community responses to hydroscape alteration can be valuable metrics to assess the success of hydroscape restoration. While results can vary across individuals, species, and sampling sites, effects can still be detected even at the scale of the hydroscape. My research has detailed the potential effects of restoration plans across the greater Everglades and can be extended to other ephemeral wetland restoration programs.
Bush, Michael Ross, "Experimental Analysis of the Effects of Hydroscape Structure on Fishes in a Dynamic Wetland" (2017). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10744192.