Decision support for aquatic restoration based on species-specific responses to disturbance

Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Disturbances to aquatic habitats are not uniformly distributed within the Great Lakes and acute effects can be strongest in nearshore areas where both landscape and within lake effects can have strong influence. Furthermore, different fish species respond to disturbances in different ways. A means to identify and evaluate locations and extent of disturbances that affect fish is needed throughout the Great Lakes. We used partial Canonical Correspondence Analysis to separate “natural” effects on nearshore assemblages from disturbance effects. Species-specific quadratic models of fish abundance as functions of in-lake disturbance or watershed-derived disturbance were developed separately for each of 35 species and lakewide predictions mapped for Lake Erie. Most responses were unimodal and more species decreased in abundance with increasing watershed disturbance than increased. However, eight species increased in abundance with current in-lake disturbance conditions. Optimum Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) abundance occurred at in-lake disturbance values less than the gradient mean, but decreased continuously from minimum watershed disturbance to higher values. Bands of optimum in-lake conditions occurred throughout the eastern and western portions of the Lake Erie nearshore zone; some areas were less disturbed than desirable. However, watershed-derived disturbance conditions were generally poor for Yellow Perch throughout the lake. In contrast, optimum Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) abundance occurred at in-lake disturbance values greater than the gradient mean and continuously increased with increasing watershed disturbance. Smallmouth Bass responses to disturbance indicated that most of the nearshore zone was less disturbed than is desirable and were most abundant in areas that the Yellow Perch response indicated were highly disturbed. Mapping counts of species response models that agreed on the disturbance level in each spatial unit of the nearshore zone showed a fine-scale mosaic of areas in which habitat restoration may benefit many or few species. This tool may assist managers in prioritizing conservation and restoration efforts and evaluating environmental conditions that may be improved.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Decision support for aquatic restoration based on species-specific responses to disturbance
Series title Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1002/ece3.9313
Volume 12
Issue 10
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description e9313, 32 p.
Country Canada, United States
Other Geospatial Great Lakes
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details