Abstract Title

Session S-07F: Elwah River Restoration: Evolution of Habitats and Ecosystems During a Dam Removal Project

Keywords

Restoration

Start Date

1-5-2014 3:30 PM

End Date

1-5-2014 5:00 PM

Description

Kelps are ecologically important seaweeds that dominated the nearshore vegetation community prior to dam removal on the Elwha River. Dam removal is expected to trigger a shift from kelps to vegetation types that are characteristic of soft-sediment communities through restoring natural sediment supply. This study is investigating how nearshore vegetation responds to restoration of the natural sediment regime, both initially when large amounts of sediment entrained in the reservoirs are released and over longer time periods. We assessed vegetation at multiple spatial scales using three approaches. First, we measured floating kelp canopy area using aerial photography. Second, we assessed the abundance of understory kelp and seagrasses with towed videography along 50 km of shoreline. Third, scuba divers recorded density of kelp species and other seaweeds along 10 km of shoreline bracketing the river mouth. Results show profound changes in vegetation and a strong gradient in magnitude of impact related to distance from the river mouth. Floating kelp canopy area decreased 74% in the Elwha Drift Cell in the first year following project initiation (year 1), with lower magnitude losses throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Area of prostrate kelps decreased by 45% (400 ha) and of stipitate kelps by 30% (130 ha) in the Elwha Drift Cell in year 1. Mean kelp density near the river mouth decreased 77% in year 1 and 95% in year 2. While all 10 kelp species declined, annuals were more impacted than perennials. In contrast to the general decline, juveniles of several kelp species appeared in late August of year 2, a substantial delay compared to typical spring timing of juvenile growth. What caused the large kelp losses and apparent delay of juvenile growth? Likely candidates include light reduction from the river plume and scour, burial or settlement inhibition from deposition. These candidates will be explored using physical data from the multidisciplinary research effort.

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May 1st, 3:30 PM May 1st, 5:00 PM

Changes in Kelp and Other Seaweeds Following Elwha Dam Removal

Room 602-603

Kelps are ecologically important seaweeds that dominated the nearshore vegetation community prior to dam removal on the Elwha River. Dam removal is expected to trigger a shift from kelps to vegetation types that are characteristic of soft-sediment communities through restoring natural sediment supply. This study is investigating how nearshore vegetation responds to restoration of the natural sediment regime, both initially when large amounts of sediment entrained in the reservoirs are released and over longer time periods. We assessed vegetation at multiple spatial scales using three approaches. First, we measured floating kelp canopy area using aerial photography. Second, we assessed the abundance of understory kelp and seagrasses with towed videography along 50 km of shoreline. Third, scuba divers recorded density of kelp species and other seaweeds along 10 km of shoreline bracketing the river mouth. Results show profound changes in vegetation and a strong gradient in magnitude of impact related to distance from the river mouth. Floating kelp canopy area decreased 74% in the Elwha Drift Cell in the first year following project initiation (year 1), with lower magnitude losses throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Area of prostrate kelps decreased by 45% (400 ha) and of stipitate kelps by 30% (130 ha) in the Elwha Drift Cell in year 1. Mean kelp density near the river mouth decreased 77% in year 1 and 95% in year 2. While all 10 kelp species declined, annuals were more impacted than perennials. In contrast to the general decline, juveniles of several kelp species appeared in late August of year 2, a substantial delay compared to typical spring timing of juvenile growth. What caused the large kelp losses and apparent delay of juvenile growth? Likely candidates include light reduction from the river plume and scour, burial or settlement inhibition from deposition. These candidates will be explored using physical data from the multidisciplinary research effort.