Abstract: Closing Plenary Session  9:30 am (BACK)

Incorporating Limiting Factor Analysis of Fish Populations Improves Success of Fisheries Habitat Enhancement Projects

Matt Kondratieff
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Fort Collins, CO

With so much money and resources being spent on fisheries habitat enhancement, there is a need to determine the effectiveness of projects at accomplishing the desired goals.  Post-project effectiveness monitoring and evaluation of fisheries habitat enhancement projects are rarely conducted for the following reasons: First, there is an assumption that applying general habitat treatments will benefit fish habitat regardless of context.  Second, there are rarely financial incentives for practitioners with clients unwilling to fund post-project monitoring.  Third, many practitioners don’t know how to conduct post-project fisheries evaluations.  Fourth, evaluations require more work. Lastly, many projects lack clearly stated pre-project goals necessary for conducting proper evaluations.  Successful fisheries habitat enhancement projects include post-project evaluation of the pre-project goals.  Focused fish habitat enhancement goals follow from an understanding of the factors limiting fish populations (limiting factors analysis).  Selection of habitat treatments follow from clearly identified goals.  Monitoring and evaluation of specific habitat treatments lead to refinement of enhancement techniques, evidence of post-project effectiveness, and ultimately lead to advancing the field of river restoration and establishing scientific credibility.  Fisheries populations are influenced by many confounding factors in addition to habitat quality.  Therefore, to determine effectiveness of habitat enhancement treatments, a Before After Control Treatment (BACT) study design is often recommended.  In addition, a reference reach approach similar to that used in Natural Channel Design should be applied to determine the “biological” potential of the impaired reach and to set realistic pre-project fisheries enhancement goals.  Case studies involving the successful and unsuccessful application of limiting factor analyses to direct fisheries habitat enhancement projects will be presented.  This paper seeks to present the need for conducting effectiveness monitoring and evaluation of fisheries habitat enhancement projects, and lays out a process for conducting future post-project fisheries habitat enhancement evaluations.