Effects of Stream Restoration on Trout in Two Northwestern North Carolina Streams

Stream restoration projects in coldwater streams have become increasingly common in North Carolina. Many of these projects are undertaken to reduce streambank erosion; however, improving aquatic habitat for fish is often a secondary goal. In an effort to evaluate the impact of stream restoration work on trout, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission monitored trout abundance and biomass within two North Carolina streams. Trout were monitored one year prior to and for four years following restoration with backpack electrofishing gear. The data collected from each restoration reach was compared with data collected from an un-restored upstream control reach. Annual variation in relative trout abundance was similar between the restoration and control reach on both streams, suggesting that the changes observed were a result of natural variability. Other changes, such as a decline in trout biomass and the loss of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) within the Laurel Creek restoration reach may be due in part to the restoration work. Although improvements in trout abundance and biomass resulting from the restoration work were not detected, both restorations likely met the primary goal of improving water quality by reducing streambank erosion, reconnecting the streams to the floodplain, and establishing permanent riparian buffers.

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