The local responses of aquatic ecosystems to adjacent grassland conservation: Can streams of dreams exist in a degraded riverscape?

Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
By: , and 



  1. Landscape homogenization and the removal of riparian areas have altered stream ecosystems worldwide. Numerous conservation programmes attempt to improve water quality and increase instream habitat heterogeneity to elicit desired biological responses. However, the effectiveness of many conservation efforts on isolated stream fragments remains unknown, especially in grassland regions.
  2. The effects of grassland conservation practices and the re-establishment of riparian corridors in the James River basin, South Dakota (USA) on stream water quality, habitat availability and aquatic macroinvertebrate and fish assemblages were studied in an agriculturally dominated prairie landscape.
  3. Grassland conservation efforts may have repaired riparian condition, reduced turbidity and created more diverse instream habitat complexes at conservation sites based on comparisons with paired reference reaches. Reference sites were relatively homogeneous, with prevalent siltation, bank erosion and disturbances to the riparian vegetation. Owing to significant riparian vegetation development, overhanging and aquatic vegetation, benthic detritus and woody materials were significantly more common at conservation reaches.
  4. Restoration efforts that assume ‘if you (re-)build it, they will come’ (i.e. the ‘field of dreams’ hypothesis) underestimate other important barriers to biodiversity restoration in dynamic, grassland riverscapes. Although aquatic organisms in grassland ecosystems are adapted to rapidly inhabit available habitats, the development of niche space at conservation reaches did not directly result in colonization by aquatic life.
  5. Grassland management actions did not address stream connectivity issues or overcome land use influences elsewhere in the riverscape that may govern the responses of aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish. Stream fragmentation and continuing, damaging land use patterns seemed to exceed the positive effects of restoring isolated stream reaches in these heavily degraded catchments. Catchment-scale management strategies that combine reach-level restoration actions with efforts to improve connectivity are likely to be more successful in degraded riverscapes.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The local responses of aquatic ecosystems to adjacent grassland conservation: Can streams of dreams exist in a degraded riverscape?
Series title Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
DOI 10.1002/aqc.3656
Volume 31
Issue 9
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 15 p.
First page 2481
Last page 2495
Country United States
State South Dakota
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