Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program

Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program

Long Term Resource Monitoring



Spatial and temporal changes in species composition of submersed aquatic vegetation reveal effects of river restoration

Carhart, A.M., De Jager, N.R. 2019. Spatial and temporal changes in species composition of submersed aquatic vegetation reveal effects of river restoration. Restoration Ecology. 27(3):672-682. DOI: 10.1111/rec.12911.


We examined temporal changes in spatial patterns of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) in response to the restoration of geomorphic habitat in Navigation Pool 8 of the Upper Mississippi River from 1998 to 2016. The frequency of occurrence and species composition of SAV at sampling sites were spatially interpolated for each year to create annual maps. Linear models were fitted to temporal changes in SAVwithin eachmap pixel. The frequency of occurrence of SAV(across all species) increased over time in much of the impounded region of the pool, including areas near restored islands. However, impounded areas maintained a relatively consistent species composition over time, with species known to be tolerant of higher flow velocities (>0.10 m/second) and wind fetch distances (>1,000 m) (e.g. Vallisneria americana) being most abundant. In contrast, areas protected by newly constructed islands transitioned from V. americana to species found in other protected backwater habitats and known to be intolerant of high flow velocities and wind fetch distances (e.g. Ceratophyllum demersum). The results suggest that previously reported improvements inwater claritymay have improved growing conditions for all SAVspecies, especially in the lower impounded portion of the pool, while island restoration created more backwater-like habitats and facilitated changes in species composition. Assessing changes in SAV occurrence alone offers only a partial view of local-scale river restoration (e.g. island building), while analyses of species composition are likely to be more indicative of the types of changes (i.e. reduced flow velocity and wind fetch) associated with restoring geomorphic habitat.


biological indicators, geomorphic change, habitat restoration, species composition, submersed aquatic vegetation

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