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Initially published in Ecological Applications, April 2006, volume 16, issue 2, p.784-796.

© 2006 by the Ecological Society of America

DOI: 10.1890/1051-0761(2006)016[0784:DTPUOI]2.0.CO;2[0784:DTPUOI]2.0.CO;2


In the 1930s, after only three years of scientific investigation at the University of Michigan Institute for Fisheries Research, cheap labor and government-sponsored conservation projects spearheaded by the Civilian Conservation Corps allowed the widespread adoption of in-stream structures throughout the United States. From the 1940s through the 1970s, designs of in-stream structures remained essentially unchanged, and their use continued. Despite a large investment in the construction of in-stream structures over these four decades, very few studies were undertaken to evaluate the impacts of the structures on the channel and its aquatic populations. The studies that were undertaken to evaluate the impact of the structures were often flawed. The use of habitat structures became an ‘‘accepted practice,’’ however, and early evaluation studies were used as proof that the structures were beneficial to aquatic organisms. A review of the literature reveals that, despite published claims to the contrary, little evidence of the successful use of in-stream structures to improve fish populations exists prior to 1980. A total of 79 publications were checked, and 215 statistical analyses were performed. Only seven analyses provide evidence for a benefit of structures on fish populations, and five of these analyses are suspect because data were misclassified by the original authors. Many of the changes in population measures reported in early publications appear to result from changes in fishing pressure that often accompanied channel modifications. Modern evaluations of channel-restoration projects must consider the influence of fishing pressure to ensure that efforts to improve fish habitat achieve the benefits intended. My statistical results show that the traditional use of in-stream structures for channel restoration design does not ensure demonstrable benefits for fish communities, and their ability to increase fish populations should not be presumed.


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The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.