Theis S.*, Cartwright L., Chreston A., Wallace A., Graham B., Coey B., Little D., Poesch M.S., Portiss R., and J. Ruppert (In Press). Nearshore fish community changes along the Toronto Waterfront in accordance with management and restoration goals: Insights from two decades of monitoring. PLos One.

Abstract:

Aquatic habitat in the Greater Toronto Area has been subject to anthropogenic stressors. The subsequent aquatic habitat degradation that followed led to the Toronto and Region waterfront being listed as an Area of Concern in 1987. Thus, extensive shoreline and riparian habitat restoration have been implemented as part of the Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan in conjunction with local stakeholders, ministries, and NGOs in an overall effort to increase fish, bird, and wildlife habitat. A key aspect of current fish habitat restoration efforts, monitored by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, is to account for long-term community changes within the target ecosystem to better understand overall changes at a larger spatial scale. Here we use electrofishing data from the past 20 years with over 100,000 records and across 72km of coastline to show how declines and fluctuations in fish biomass and catch along the waterfront are driven by a few individual species across three main ecotypes, such as coastal wetlands, embayments, and open coast sites, with the remaining species showing a high level of stability. Using community traits and composition for resident species we demonstrate native warmwater species have become more dominant along the waterfront in recent years, suggesting that restoration efforts are functioning as intended. Additionally, piscivore and specialist species have increased in their relative biomass contribution, approaching existing restoration targets. Altogether this waterfront-wide evaluation allows us to detect overall changes along the waterfront and can be beneficial to understand community changes at an ecosystem level when implementing and monitoring restoration projects.

Citation: Theis S., Cartwright L., Chreston A., Wallace A., Graham B., Coey B., Little D., Poesch M.S., Portiss R., and J. Ruppert (In Press). Nearshore fish community changes along the Toronto Waterfront in accordance with management and restoration goals: Insights from two decades of monitoring. PLos One.

Also Read:

Theis, S.*  Castellanos D.A., Hamann A. and M.S. Poesch. (2022) Exploring the potential role of habitat banks in preserving freshwater biodiversity and imperiled species in the United States. Biological Conservation 273: 109700.

*Lab members: Sebastian Theis, Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Theis S.* and M. S. Poesch. (2024). What makes a bank a bank? Differences and commonalities in credit calculation, application, and risks in mitigation banks targeting freshwater fish species and associated ecosystems. Environmental Management

Abstract:

Mitigation banking is part of the ever-expanding global environmental market framework that aims to balance negative approved anthropogenic impacts versus third-party provided ecosystem benefits, sold in the form of credits. Given the need to conserve freshwater biodiversity and habitat, banking has received great traction in freshwater systems. While extensive reviews and studies have been conducted on evaluating if equivalency between impacts and offset can be achieved, there is almost no research being done on the way credits are being generated. Synthesizing banking data through cluster analyses from 26 banks in the United States generating credits for freshwater species and systems, we show two dominant approaches: removing barriers and targeting whole communities. Both address crucial freshwater conservation needs but come with their risks and caveats. Using common characteristics and management practices within these two groups, we showcase and conclude that credit generation via barrier removal can be at risk of granting credit generation for too large of an area, leading to over-crediting. Banks targeting whole freshwater communities and accounting for landscape-level interactions and influences can potentially be detrimental for species on an individual level and large-scale credit availability as well as transfer can incentivize non-compliance with the mitigation hierarchy.

Citation: Theis S. and M. S. Poesch. (2024). What makes a bank a bank? Differences and commonalities in credit calculation, application, and risks in mitigation banks targeting freshwater fish species and associated ecosystems. Environmental Management.

Also Read:

Theis S.*, and M.S. Poesch (2022) Assessing conservation and mitigation banking practices and associated gains and losses in the United States. Sustainability 14: 6652.

*Lab members: Sebastian Theis, Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Theis, S.* and M. S. Poesch. (2024).  Mitigation bank applications for freshwater systems: Control mechanisms, project complexity, and caveats. PLOS One 19(2): e-292702.

Abstract:

Biodiversity and mitigation banking has become a popular alternative offsetting mechanism, especially for freshwater species and systems. Central to this increase in popularity is the need for sound control mechanisms to ensure offset functionality. Two commonly used mechanisms are monitoring requirements and staggered release of bank credits over time. We used data from 47 banks in the United States, targeting freshwater systems and species. Based on the 47 banks meeting our criteria we showed that control mechanisms generally scale with increased project complexity and that banks release most of their total credit amount within the first 3 years. We further showed that advance credits are common and can increase the potential for credit release without providing tangible ecological benefits. Physical and biological assessment criteria commonly used by banks let us identify three main bank types focusing on connectivity, physical aspects, and habitat and species and their application possibilities and caveats to provide different ecosystem benefits for freshwater species and systems affected by anthropogenic development.

Citation: Theis, S. and M. S. Poesch. (2024).  Mitigation bank applications for freshwater systems: Control mechanisms, project complexity, and caveats. PLOS One 19(2): e-292702.

Also Read:

Theis S.*, and M.S. Poesch (2022) Assessing conservation and mitigation banking practices and associated gains and losses in the United States. Sustainability 14: 6652.

*Lab members: Sebastian Theis, Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Miller, M., Stevens, C. and M. S. Poesch. (In Press). Effectiveness of Spawning Substrate Enhancement for Adfluvial Fish in a Regulated Sub-Arctic River. River Research and Applications.

Abstract:

This study was conducted to meet regulatory requirements under the Fisheries Act in Canada, specifically for a hydroelectric facility on the Yellowknife River in the Northwest Territories. The research focused on annual snorkel surveys of adfluvial fish and their spawning habitat below the facility. Initial observations of egg mortality, potentially due to overcrowding, prompted the investigation of natural and enhanced habitat for spawning Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and cisco (Coregonus artedi) from 2016 to 2019. The design and composition of the installed habitat were based on fish utilization of the natural channel below the hydro facility and design principles from previous habitat rehabilitation projects for anadromous fishes. Pre- and post-enhancement data on egg density and survival were collected using 1 m2 plots on both natural and artificially enhanced substrates. Three years of post-enhancement monitoring indicated higher egg densities and a greater proportion of live eggs in the artificially enhanced habitat compared to the natural habitat, with more pronounced trends observed for coregonids (lake whitefish and cisco) compared to lake trout. These findings suggest that habitat enhancement has the potential to enhance juvenile recruitment for adfluvial fish. A critical factor in the design was the substrate composition, providing adequate interstitial spaces for egg development and protection. This study represents the first documented attempt at habitat improvement in a regulated sub-Arctic river in Canada. The findings offer valuable guidance for stakeholders involved in new or existing development projects that require conservation actions to maintain fisheries productivity.

Citation: Miller, M., Stevens, C. and M. S. Poesch. (In Press). Effectiveness of Spawning Substrate Enhancement for Adfluvial Fish in a Regulated Sub-Arctic River. River Research and Applications.

Also Read:

McPherson, M.*, Lewis, J.B., Cott, P.B., Baker, L.F., Mochnacz, N.J. Swanson, H.K., and S. Poesch. (2023) Habitat use by fluvial Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) across life stages in northern mountain streams. Environmental Biology of Fishes 106: 1001-1020.

*Lab members: Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Serbu, J. A., St. Louis, V. L., Emmerton, C. A., Tank S., Criscitello, A., Silins, U., Bhatia, M., Cavaco, M., Christenson, C., Cooke, C., Drapeau, H., Enns, S. J., Flett, J., Holland, K., Lavelle-Whiffen, J., Ma, M., Muir, C., Poesch, M. S., and J. Shin. (2023). A comprehensive biogeochemical assessment of climate-threatened glacial river headwaters on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. JGR Biogeosciences 129: e2023JG007745. 

Abstract:

Climate change is driving the loss of alpine glaciers globally, yet investigations about the health of rivers stemming from them are few. Here we provide an overview assessment of a biogeochemical dataset containing 200+ parameters that we collected between 2019-2021 from the headwaters of three such rivers (Sunwapta-Athabasca, North Saskatchewan, and Bow) which originate from the glacierized eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We used regional hydrometric datasets to accurately model discharge at our sampling sites. We created a Local Meteoric Water Line (LMWL) using riverine water isotope signatures and compared it to regional rain, snow, and glacial ice signatures we also collected. Principal component analyses of river physicochemical measures revealed distance from glacier explained more data variability than the spatiotemporal factors season, year, or river. Discharge, chemical concentrations, and watershed areas were then used to model site-specific open water season yields for 25 parameters. Chemical yields followed what would generally be expected along river continuums from glacierized to montane altitudinal life zones, with landscape characteristics acting as chemical sources and sinks. For instance, particulate chemical yields were generally highest near source glaciers with proglacial lakes acting as settling ponds, whereas most dissolved yields varied by parameter and site. As these headwaters continue to evolve with glacier mass loss, the dataset and analyses presented here can be used as a contemporary baseline to mark future change against. Further, following this initial assessment of our dataset, we encourage others to mine it for additional biogeochemical studies.

Citation: Serbu, J. A., St. Louis, V. L., Emmerton, C. A., Tank S., Criscitello, A., Silins, U., Bhatia, M., Cavaco, M., Christenson, C., Cooke, C., Drapeau, H., Enns, S. J., Flett, J., Holland, K., Lavelle-Whiffen, J., Ma, M., Muir, C., Poesch, M. S., and J. Shin. (2023). A comprehensive biogeochemical assessment of climate-threatened glacial river headwaters on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. JGR Biogeosciences 129: e2023JG007745. 

Also Read:

Theis, S.*  Castellanos D.A., Hamann A. and M.S. Poesch. (2023) Small-bodied fish species from western United States will be under severe water stress by 2040. Conservation Science and Practice: e12856.

*Lab members: Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

MacLeod, T. (2023) Assessing the station holding ability of three benthic fishes exposes to flow augmentation: implications for species at risk.

Thesis Title: Assessing the station holding ability of three benthic fishes exposes to flow augmentation: implications for species at risk.

Author: Taylor (Macs) MacLeod

Abstract

Flow augmentation forces Plains Sucker in the Milk River to adopt more efficient station holding mechanisms, which must be energetically costly as they are not maintained year-round. The station holding ability of Milk River Plains Sucker was measured using a Brett-style swim tunnel respirometer, and the results were compared to other catostomid species in the Milk River and to Plains Sucker caught in water bodies that remain unmodified year-round. Milk River Plains Sucker maintained a significantly higher estimated marginal mean failure velocity (p < 0.0001) during augmentation (June-July) compared to natural flows (September-October). Catostomids in Milk River exhibited varying degrees of response; from no change in response to augmentation (Longnose Sucker, p = 0.5) to a significant shift (Plains Sucker and White Sucker p =
0.0001). Plains Sucker from unmodified water bodies demonstrated at most a minor change in performance between sampling periods (Battle Creek, p = 0.041; Caton Creek p = 0.068). The substantial energetic input into station holding may result in life history trade-offs impacting the populations’ continued existence in this part of its native range.

 

McPherson, M.*, Lewis, J.B., Cott, P.B., Baker, L.F., Mochnacz, N.J. Swanson, H.K., and S. Poesch. (2023) Habitat use by fluvial Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) across life stages in northern mountain streams. Environmental Biology of Fishes 106: 1001-1020.

Abstract:

Northern aquatic ecosystems face increasing pressures from climate change and natural resource development.  The Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) is a widely distributed, northern freshwater fish which can be vulnerable to such pressures. There remains a paucity of information on life stage requirements through most of the species’ range to reliably map and manage habitat to protect populations into the future. We sought to characterize fluvial Arctic Grayling distribution among mountain streams and determine habitat characteristics that habitat use across life stages. Sampling was conducted at 183 sites across the Little Nahanni River watershed to collect information on fish distribution and reach-scale habitat parameters. Arctic Grayling were collected for biological analyses of age, size, weight, and reproductive development. Based on age and size-classes there were four distinct post-emergence life stages: YOY, juvenile, sub-adult and adult. YOY Arctic Grayling were found exclusively in low elevation (<1000 m) streams, flat-water habitat dominated by silty-sand substrate with average water temperatures >10oC. Similarly, juvenile Arctic Grayling occupied low elevation, warm water stream habitat, but associated strongly with run habitats. Sub-adult Arctic Grayling, the most widely distributed life-stage, were found associated with riffle, pool, and cascade-boulder habitats. Adults occupied high elevation (>1200 m) habitats that were cold (mean stream temperature = 7oC), and had higher proportions of pool and boulder habitat. The dynamic nature of Arctic Grayling habitat use in mountain streams highlights the need to consider habitat complexes at the watershed scale when defining species life stage requirements, managing habitats, monitoring populations, and assessing potential impacts. Keywords: Climate Change; Water Stress; Biodiversity; Preservation.

Citation: McPherson, M., Lewis, J.B., Cott, P.B., Baker, L.F., Mochnacz, N.J. Swanson, H.K., and S. Poesch. (2023) Habitat use by fluvial Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) across life stages in northern mountain streams. Environmental Biology of Fishes 106: 1001-1020. 

Also Read:

Pandit, S.N.*, Koriala, L., Maitland, B.M*, Poesch, M.S., and E. Enders. (2017) Climate change risks, extinction debt, and conservation implications for an endangered freshwater fish Carmine Shiner (Notropis percobromus). Science of the Total Environment 598: 1-11.

*Lab members: Morag McPherson and Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Edgar, M. (2022) The introduction of Cipangopaludina chinensis and tropic effects of sympatric freshwater fish invaders in southern Alberta reservoirs.

Thesis Title: The introduction of Cipangopaludina chinensis and tropic effects of sympatric freshwater fish invaders in southern Alberta reservoirs.

Author: Megan Edgar

Abstract

At present, one of the most pervasive risks to freshwater ecosystems are invasive species. Invasive species are among the leading antagonists to global biodiversity, since they can out-compete or predate on native species which leads to changes of the structure of food webs and alteration of ecosystem function. As biogeographic boundaries are broken down by human-related means of spread, more are we seeing novel occurrences between non-native species and the ecosystems they are introduced to. As invasive species continue to radiate from their original regions, it is critical to understand how these species will impact their new ecosystems. As of 2019, non-native Chinese Mystery Snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis (Gray, 1834)) has persisted in McGregor Lake Reservoir, Alberta, Canada. Additionally, Northern Crayfish (Faxonius virilis) a non-native species which has expanded their range into lakes and rivers in Alberta, exists in sympatry with Chinese Mystery Snail in McGregor Lake Reservoir.

I aimed to advise management programs related to both Chinese Mystery Snail and Northern Crayfish in Alberta lakes and reservoir systems, and provide important information regarding the trophic interactions and outcomes to native recreational fish species (Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Walleye (Sander vitreus), and Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)).

In this thesis, I provide a comprehensive literature review regarding Chinese Mystery Snail in Canada, along with pertinent information regarding their impacts, life history characteristics, morphological characteristics, and range within invaded and native ranges. The initial finding of Chinese Mystery Snail is officially documented in Alberta, along with biological information that may aid management efforts. DNA barcoding is used to confirm the species identification and the barcode is added to GenBank. We analyze growth rate and fecundity, and assessed the presence of digenean trematode cercariae in snails in McGregor Lake Reservoir. After a 24-hour experimental period, we confirmed that Chinese Mystery Snail specimens are not infected by digenean trematodes. We also determine that shell growth quickly outpaces shell width, and that upon emergence Chinese Mystery Snail is larger than many of the native snail species in Albertan waterbodies. We also determine that Chinese Mystery Snail in Alberta produce a lower average number of juveniles compared to populations elsewhere. We also suggest that Chinese Mystery Snail meet four of the five stages of species invasion: arrival, establishment, growth, and reproduction, however there is no evidence of dispersal to adjacent waterbodies.

With the use of stable isotope analysis and gut content analysis, I address the trophic consequences that may arise with the addition of Northern Crayfish and Chinese Mystery Snail into aquatic ecosystems in southern Alberta, as well as their impacts to Northern Pike, Walleye and Lake Whitefish. I sampled five reservoirs in Alberta (St. Mary’s Reservoir, Forty-Mile Reservoir, Sherburne Lake Reservoir, Travers Lake Reservoir, and McGregor Lake Reservoir), collecting macrophytes, benthic macroinvertebrates, small-bodied fish species, as well as invasives and large recreational fish species. I hypothesized that the presence of only one aquatic invader would create bottom-up effects on the food-web, and that an additional invasive species would amplify these effects, creating shifts in fish trophic positions by moving basal energy away from higher trophic levels through the consumption of algae and macrophytes, or by providing a new prey resource. I also hypothesized that Chinese Mystery Snail and Northern Crayfish would have overlapping niches, through competition for resources or predation. Briefly, I determined that fish are becoming more piscivorous compared to reference lakes where there are no invasive species present, community trophic positions are higher in reservoirs where only Northern Crayfish are present as an invasive, and that carbon ranges are narrower in systems with only Northern Crayfish and wider when both invasives are in sympatry. A few reasons that these effects may be occurring to fish include an “adaptive lag” period, or lack of macrophytes in invaded waterbodies due to the invasives present. I also discovered that trophic niche ellipses of Chinese Mystery Snail and Northern Crayfish are overlapping, pointing to competitive exclusion.

The results from this thesis address my overall goals to investigate the introduction of Chinese Mystery Snail and the potential impacts of interactions between Chinese Mystery Snail and Northern Crayfish on native recreational fish species in reservoirs in southern Alberta. The findings gained throughout this thesis are useful for the management of both invasive species and will hopefully provide a catalyst for other researchers and resource managers.

 

Theis, S.*, Ruppert, J. L. W. and M. S. Poesch. (2023) Coarse woody habitat use by local fish species and structural integrity of enhancements over time in a shallow northern boreal lake assessed in a Bayesian modeling approach. Ecological Solutions and Evidence 4(2): e12200.

Abstract:

  1. The introduction of coarse woody habitat has been a widely adopted management practice for restoring and enhancing freshwater aquatic ecosystems. Although responses of aquatic fish and invertebrate communities have largely been documented for lotic systems, benefits for lentic ecosystems have been mostly unevaluated.
  2. We tested the responses of fish populations to coarse woody habitat structures through a Bayesian modeling approach in a northern boreal lake in Alberta, Canada by enhancing a stretch of littoral zone with low structural complexity through introduction of coarse wood bundles and whole tree structures. The study site was split into three treatments, a Spaced treatment (structures 30 m apart), a Clustered treatment (structures 15 m apart), and an unaltered area (Control).
  3. Catch per unit effort and Catch per unit area data were collected over 2 years and posterior model predictions showed an increase in habitat use of the enhanced areas by spottail shiner – Notropis hudsonius; northern pike – Esox lucius; white sucker – Catostomus commersonii; brook stickleback – Culaea inconstans. No probable effect on overall fish condition, measured in Relative Weight, was linked to the enhancements.
  4. Across the two-year study, wood bundles degraded faster compared to the whole tree drops, coinciding with leveling off catch per unit effort and catch per unit area predictions near wood bundles, although catch predictions increased near the whole tree structures. Structural degradation set in as early as 1 week post construction for wood bundles and was mostly related to anchoring aspects.
  5. Results from our study provide evidence for the benefits provided by coarse woody habitat within northern boreal lake systems.  They furthermore highlight the short-lived nature of wood bundles built with biodegradable substances.  Methodologically our results offer evidence on the feasibility and utility of predictive modeling frameworks in addressing pseudoreplication and providing informative value for ecological studies.

Citation: Theis, S., Ruppert, J. L. W. and M. S. Poesch. (2023) Coarse woody habitat use by local fish species and structural integrity of enhancements over time in a shallow northern boreal lake assessed in a Bayesian modeling approach. Ecological Solutions and Evidence 4(2): e12200.

Also Read:

Theis, S.*, Ruppert, J.*, Shirton, J.* and M.S. Poesch (2022) Measuring beta diversity components and beneficial effects of coarse woody habitat introduction on invertebrate and macrophyte communities in a shallow northern boreal lake: implications for offsetting. Aquatic Ecology 56: 793-814.

*Lab members: Sebastian Theis, Jonathan Ruppert and Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!