Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Amy Braccia

Second Advisor

Stephen C. Richter

Third Advisor

Sherry L. Harrel

Abstract

The bulk of streams in the U.S. have been negatively impacted by anthropogenic disturbances and the streams of Kentucky are no exception. In recent decades stream restoration has become a common practice in order to improve habitat degradation resulting from land use practices such as channelization. Despite the large amount of effort and funding stream restoration projects represent, only a small portion have undergone post-restoration assessments of the ecological response in the restored streams. Slabcamp Creek, a headwater stream located in the Licking River basin in eastern Kentucky, underwent a stream-wetland hydrologic restoration in 2010 in order to improve hydrologic functioning and degraded habitat that resulted from channelization. The goal of this study was to quantify macroinvertebrate assemblages from Slabcamp Creek and compare the assemblages to a site representing Kentucky Division of Water's headwater reference conditions and a pre-restoration condition control site. Specific objectives included: 1) compare macroinvertebrate assemblage structure and function across study sites, 2) determine if mesohabitats (pools and riffles) support unique macroinvertebrate assemblages within and between study sites, 3) determine if macroinvertebrate assemblages varied at the study sites seasonally between high base flow (winter) and low base flow (summer), 4) explore relationships between the macroinvertebrate assemblages and microhabitat variables at the study sites, and 5) determine how accounting for the availability of mesohabitats at the reach scale (habitat weighting the data) compares to patch scale analyses for these objectives. Overall, findings indicated restored Slabcamp Creek was more similar to the reference condition site than the pre-restoration condition control site. It appeared that habitat-specific sampling may play an important role in assessing hydrologic restoration, since invertebrate densities, biomass and assemblage structure and function from riffles were fairly similar across sites while stark differences were detected in pools. This could be a result of the restoration improving hydrologic functioning and thus the underlying fluvial geomorphological processes that create pools which are disrupted by channelization. Subsequently, improved hydrologic function may have led to increased habitat complexity, substrate stability, and organic matter retention. Post restoration monitoring should continue at these study sites to see if these results vary or persist over time.

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