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Assessing a restoration project for lake sturgeon spawning habitat: use of habitat suitability and numerical models

Title:

Assessing a restoration project for lake sturgeon spawning habitat: use of habitat suitability and numerical models

Baril, Andre-Marcel (2017) Assessing a restoration project for lake sturgeon spawning habitat: use of habitat suitability and numerical models. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

The loss of spawning habitat has been identified as a limiting factor for population growth of lake sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens, a species that is endangered or threatened throughout its range. Hence, the restoration of spawning habitat has become a common practice, with at least 17 projects completed in the last 20 years. One project on the Ouareau River in Quebec entailed the installation of three artificial spawning reefs and two sills to address a landslide, headward erosion and dam activity. Our study adopted an adaptive management framework that incorporated 3D hydrodynamic modeling and a habitat suitability index to assess the performance of the sills and the success of the restoration project. We first compiled data from 48 sites across the range of the species to produce univariate habitat suitability indices to describe the spawning niche. Peak suitability occurred at depth-averaged velocities of 0.6 m·s-1, depths of 0.55 – 0.85 m in small rivers (<100 m3·s-1 annual average discharge) and 0.75 – 5.25 m in large rivers (>100 m3·s-1), over cobble substrates (64 – 256 mm) and water temperatures of 13.8 – 14.3 °C. To assess the quantity of suitable habitat, univariate habitat suitability results were compiled into a multivariate suitability index using a fuzzy weighted linear combination, and applied to the 3D hydrodynamic model of the Ouareau spawning area. Our model indicated an abundance of suitable habitat and that the artificial spawning sites were placed in poor locations (velocity at sites > spawning requirements). By simulating river conditions prior to sill construction using the 3D hydrodynamic model, we found that the sills only have a minimal effect on the site, including no significant effect on the water surface longitudinal profile or depth averaged current velocity. Using the adaptive management framework, we identified flaws in the restoration project, related to the pre-assessment process, restoration design and evaluation, and hypothesis development. These results fill a knowledge gap by quantifying the reproductive niche of lake sturgeon, and identifying the need for multi-disciplinary insight in habitat restoration projects

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Biology
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Baril, Andre-Marcel
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M. Sc.
Program:Biology
Date:April 2017
Thesis Supervisor(s):Grant, James and Biron, Pascale
Keywords:Lake sturgeon; spawning habitat; 3D hydrodynamic modelling; habitat suitability; River restoration
ID Code:982470
Deposited By: ANDRE-MARCEL TISSHAW-BARIL
Deposited On:09 Jun 2017 15:03
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:55

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