Changes in the Food Web Linked to Restoration Effort Intensity and Watershed Conditions


Many tidal wetland restoration projects have focused on changes in vegetation or avian communities to determine whether restoration efforts have been successful. However, a functioning restored ecosystem relies on complex interactions among organisms on every level of the food web. In 2008, more than 223 hectares (ha) of former dairy ranch were restored to tidal wetland in Tomales Bay, California. To evaluate changes, we monitored zooplankton, benthic invertebrate, and fish communities before and after restoration in the Project Area and several natural marshes. Zooplankton and benthic invertebrate communities differed from natural marshes prior to restoration, but began to converge with natural marshes after restoration in terms of species composition, richness, and diversity. Fish communities in the Project Area remained distinct from those of natural marshes after restoration, although abundance of non-native species decreased. In past studies, fish communities have changed more quickly than invertebrate ones. The divergent evolutionary path taken by this system may stem from differences in restoration approach. This project did not involve extensive excavation or fill with dredge spoil material, and this minimalistic approach may promote more rapid colonization by invertebrates, especially if source populations exist nearby. While convergence with natural marshes was an objective, rapid colonization may not be beneficial in this instance as natural marshes have turned out to be dominated by non-native, opportunistic invertebrate species. Ultimately, success of restoration projects may be determined by factors extrinsic to the project itself such as climatic variability and prevalence of invasive species within watersheds.

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Parsons, L. , Sanders, L. , Ryan, A. and Reichmuth, M. (2015) Changes in the Food Web Linked to Restoration Effort Intensity and Watershed Conditions. Natural Resources, 6, 344-362. doi: 10.4236/nr.2015.65032.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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