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Will Tidal Wetland Restoration Enhance Populations of Native Fishes?

  • Author(s): Brown, Larry R.
  • et al.
Abstract

Restoration of tidal wetlands might enhance populations of native fishes in the San Francisco Estuary of California. The purpose of this paper is to: (1) review the currently available information regarding the importance of tidal wetlands to native fishes in the San Francisco Estuary, (2) construct conceptual models on the basis of available information, (3) identify key areas of scientific uncertainty, and (4) identify methods to improve conceptual models and reduce uncertainty. There are few quantitative data to suggest that restoration of tidal wetlands will substantially increase populations of native fishes. On a qualitative basis, there is some support for the idea that tidal wetland restoration will increase populations of some native fishes; however, the species deriving the most benefit from restoration might not be of great management concern at present. Invasion of the San Francisco Estuary by alien plants and animals appears to be a major factor in obscuring the expected link between tidal wetlands and native fishes. Large-scale adaptive management experiments (>100 hectares) appear to be the best available option for determining whether tidal wetlands will provide significant benefit to native fishes. Even if these experiments are unsuccessful at increasing native fish populations, the restored wetlands should benefit native birds, plants, and other organisms.

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