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CONFERENCE SCHEDULE UPDATES & CHANGES: As a result of the prolonged government shutdown, we experienced a number of cancellations and changes to the schedule. Cancellations and changes are listed here (as of January 26, 2019). 

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S06: Considering New Paradigms in the Management of Beaver - Trout - Riparian Habitats [clear filter]
Monday, January 28

1:20pm EST

(SYMPOSIA-06) Do Beaver and Trout Really Get Along? Some Perspectives on a Long-Term Conflict Concerning Landscape Scale Riparian Management
AUTHORS: Gary E. Whelan, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division

ABSTRACT: Concerns about the interactions between beavers and trout species in the Midwest have been with us for generations of fisheries and wildlife scientists.  The conflict usually centers on beavers along with riparian management that fosters their populations being a negative factor on trout populations.  While this conflict boiled in the 1990s and resulted in continuing beaver control efforts in many Midwestern states to enhance trout populations, no recent effort has been made to summarize the current knowledge about this issue and this symposium looks to address this void.   This presentation will set the stage for subsequent symposium speakers and will provide a brief overview of how beavers affect the landscape, generally positively for trout in high gradient stream systems and in a mixed way in low gradient systems.  Beavers that build dam complexes alter riparian forest types, change stream nutrient dynamics, and can alter system hydrology with resulting effects on stream fisheries which can be positive or negative for trout production depending on the landscape context.  The management of riparian zones to enhance beaver production, typically toward young succession forest types, has similar implications for trout production by changing shade and temperature dynamics.  Subsequent symposium speakers will elaborate on these points and provide attendees on the latest information on this long-term management issue.

Monday January 28, 2019 1:20pm - 1:40pm EST

1:40pm EST

(SYMPOSIA-06) Trout Stream Enhancement and Beaver Management Challenges: A Trout Angler-Conservationists Perspective
AUTHORS: Bryan Burroughs, Michigan Trout Unlimited

ABSTRACT: As other symposium presenters will address in detail, the role of beaver and riparian management along trout streams is multi-faceted, presenting both opportunities and threats; the latter of which are abundant when considering Midwest trout stream hydrology and fluvial geomorphology.  In recent times, recreational beaver trapping activities has become minimal, which has lead to long-term establishment of high abundance beaver colonies, and extensive beaver dam complexes.  In these situations, the negative impacts to trout stream management goals increase, and the resources required to ameliorate these impacts and restore trout streams dramatically increase.  Michigan Trout Unlimited is increasingly encountering these conditions, and has gained several recent experiences with addressing these restoration challenges.  The numerous stream temperature, aquatic organism connectivity, and stream morphology impacts will be overviewed.  Water temperature usually increases as the dam complexes cumulatively act to increase solar warming of the waters, upstream and downstream essential available fish habitats are disconnected, and sedimentation of the stream channel results from several mechanisms, leaving an overly wide and shallow river channel.  This talk will also overview the restoration efforts that must be undergone sequentially, to address these impacts.  These include active beaver trapping and removal, wood debris installation via brush bundling and strategic large wood placement, and sequential dam breaching done to manage fine sediment transport, sequestration and retention, as well as channel incision goals.  The case of well-established beaver colonies and beaver dam complexes, represents a common scenario that can result from diminished beaver trapping and riparian management strategies, and presents a high level of negative impact to trout streams and trout population management.  The effort required to ameliorate these conditions is extensive, and illustrates a specific important consideration in the balance of beaver, trout and riparian management.  

Monday January 28, 2019 1:40pm - 2:00pm EST

2:00pm EST

(SYMPOSIA-06) Beaver as a Provider of Ecological Services for Fish and Wildlife
AUTHORS: Kerry Fitzpatrick, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Through their dam-building and feeding activities, beaver alter the hydrology, channel morphology, biogeochemical pathways, and community productivity of streams. The literature documents that streams with beaver are substantially different from those without beaver: • Beaver are a primary disturbance regime in northern hemisphere forests. They create wetlands, forest openings, and early successional patches in what would otherwise be mature forest.• Beaver ponds increase riparian habitat, create favorable conditions for aquatic plants, and sub-irrigate nearby vegetation. Riparian plant communities are biologically more diverse in the presence of beaver.• Beaver create conditions, favorable for an entire suite of wildlife species, that are in limited supply in streams without beaver. For some wildlife, beaver-created habitat is essential to maintain a large portion of their populations.• Beaver have been shown to reduce peak flood levels, maintain flow during droughts, and reduce the variability of flow compared to streams without beaver dams.• Water that flows out of beaver dams has lower turbidity and sediment levels than that entering ponds, resulting in cleaner substrates downstream than would occur without beaver.• The stair-step profile of streams with beaver have a lower kinetic gradient, which reduces scouring and erosion. Streams with a history of beaver are more braided, wider, and have larger and deeper pools.• Streams with beaver capture and process organic matter more efficiently and closer to its source than streams without beaver. High nutrient levels and solar exposure yield the high productivity associated with beaver ponds and meadows.• Water passing through beaver ponds has an elevated acid neutralizing capacity, which can modify the pH of water originating from acidic sources such as peat bogs, conifer forests, or tannic streams.Beaver are increasingly being used as an economical stream restoration tool. This presentation outlines the rationale for maintaining or re-introducing beaver for the ecological services they provide.

Monday January 28, 2019 2:00pm - 2:20pm EST

2:20pm EST

(SYMPOSIA-06) Early Successional Habitats in Riparian Zones
AUTHORS: Brent A. Rudolph, Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society

ABSTRACT: Optimal trout habitat consists of clear water with low silt and fine sediments, high dissolved oxygen, and cold, relatively stable temperatures, and well-vegetated, stable stream banks. Though sunlight can enhance stream productivity, small trout streams in particular are considered optimal at 50% to 75% midday shade. To maintain these conditions, fisheries and forestry managers often apply stream buffers within which many or all silvicultural treatments are restricted or entirely prohibited. These buffers may be universally applied regardless of stream geomorphology or potential trout production, and justified as necessary safeguards of any potential enhancement of fish production. This static application of constraints on forest management, however, may exacerbate the already considerable concern regarding recent declines of early successional habitat and associated disturbance-dependent wildlife species in the eastern United States. Some habitat types highly preferred by ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) and American woodcock (Scolopax minor) are highly ephemeral, and providing a sufficient amount, size, and distribution of habitat patches depends upon well-planned and sustainable rotational cutting to provide the necessary disturbance. In this presentation, I will describe the increasing obstacles forestry and wildlife managers face when attempting to apply the even-aged management most effective at producing grouse and woodcock habitat on both private and public land, and demonstrate why riparian habitats in particular are important for grouse and especially woodcock. I will then review the variable management policies regarding application of stream buffers by land management agencies in the upper Midwest/Great Lakes region, and demonstrate how different riparian buffers intersect with key forest types and restrict opportunities to create habitat. I will encourage managers to ensure that buffers are evaluated or at least objectively planned and implemented to consider such management implications in addition to promoting high quality fisheries.

Monday January 28, 2019 2:20pm - 2:40pm EST

2:40pm EST

(SYMPOSIA-06) Science to Action: Decision-Support to Advance Stream Trout Management in a Changing Climate
AUTHORS: Andrew K. Carlson, William W. Taylor – Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University; Zeenatul Basher, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council; T. Douglas Beard Jr., National Climate Adaptation Science Center, USGS; Dana M. Infante, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University

ABSTRACT: Decision-making with limited information is commonplace in fisheries management, stemming from the need to sustain fisheries ecosystems in the face of changing environmental and human conditions. Decision support tools (DSTs) facilitate decision-making by systematically integrating environmental and socioeconomic information and accounting for variability in human and natural systems, yet they have not been widely applied in freshwater recreational fisheries management. As such, we collaborated with fisheries research and management professionals to develop a DST – specifically, a stream prioritization tool (SPT) – to inform fisheries management amid climate change in Michigan coldwater streams inhabited Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis, Brown Trout Salmo trutta, and Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. The SPT ranked streams by synthesizing management decision-making criteria that affect trout thermal habitat quality (e.g., current and future stream temperature, relative abundance of trout, groundwater input). Productive, socioeconomically important trout streams with high thermal habitat quality such as the Au Sable and Manistee rivers were predictably the highest-ranked streams by the SPT and thus warrant continued trout population and thermal habitat management (e.g., groundwater conservation). However, certain streams currently important for recreational fishing (e.g., Muskegon River, Pere Marquette River) were projected to have relatively low thermal habitat quality by 2056, whereas other streams without top-tier fisheries (e.g., Rapid River, Davenport Creek) were predicted to have high-quality thermal habitats, suggesting they merit increased management efforts. Revealing unexpected yet management-relevant findings under different scenarios of climate change, the SPT is a flexible instrument to help sustain thermally resilient trout populations and streamline fisheries management decision-making amid climate change.

Monday January 28, 2019 2:40pm - 3:00pm EST

3:20pm EST

(CANCELLED) (SYMPOSIA-06) River Restoration in Iowa ... Is There Anything Fishy Going on Here?
AUTHORS: Jeff Kopaska, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Historical accounts of Iowa’s aquatic resources paint a picture of what Iowa’s rivers, streams and lakes were like at the time of settlement. Unfortunately, the physical and biological components of these aquatic systems had already been degraded by the time of the first scientific surveys in the late 1800s. Erosion and sedimentation issues that began in the 1800s still plague Iowa’s rivers and streams today, in the form of streamside alluvial deposits that are phosphorus laden and subject to streambank erosion. Iowa currently is undertaking efforts to reduce nutrient flux out of the state via our streams and rivers, but restoration of other components of stream ecosystems such as hydrology, geomorphology and biology is lacking. Including nutrient reduction/stream restoration practices that enhance fish populations and fish habitat can provide short term and long term measureable improvements to Iowa’s aquatic resources, as well as those downstream.

Monday January 28, 2019 3:20pm - 3:40pm EST

3:40pm EST

(SYMPOSIA-06) How Do Beavers Affect Trout Populations? Well, it depends…
AUTHORS: Troy Zorn, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division

ABSTRACT: Most published studies do not provide a complete understanding of the effects of beavers on trout populations and streams.  Results often vary by location, with some studies characterizing beavers as beneficial to trout populations and others indicating beavers are harmful.  Drawing on case studies throughout the Midwest and North America, I will attempt to explain what underlies these seemingly contradictory findings.  For example, groundwater availability and inputs drive many Midwestern trout streams, and a thorough understanding of these processes is critical for understanding how beaver dams will affect trout populations.  Understanding the factors that shape trout streams in other regions will provide the context needed for interpreting an array of studies examining beaver-trout relationships and will enable managers to better predict how beavers might affect trout streams in their region.

Monday January 28, 2019 3:40pm - 4:00pm EST

4:00pm EST

(SYMPOSIA-06) Minnesota’s Stream Conservation Easements and New Perennial Vegetation Buffer Law Overlap to Improve Riparian Habitat
AUTHORS: Jennifer A. Olson, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish & Wildlife

ABSTRACT: This presentation will highlight the success of Minnesota’s stream conservation easements, a new perennial vegetation buffer law, and how the MN DNR Fisheries Section manages beaver on private land under stream easements across the state. Beaver management is targeted on high priority streams based on expected benefits and available resources. There is pressure to do both more and less beaver control depending upon location.Conservation easements are interests in real property that place certain restriction on the use of the property for conservation benefit. The easements are an agreement between the original landowner and State of Minnesota. Easements are recorded with the county government and stay with the land. Minimum requirements to hold conservation easements include completing baseline property reports, maintaining relationships with original and successive landowners, monitoring the easement on a regular basis, and enforcement of easement terms when needed.Stream conservation easements are most commonly found on trout streams in southeast and northeast Minnesota. The original landowner is compensated using a standardized formula for relinquishing certain land use rights within the stream corridor. Typical stream conservation easement terms allow public angling, the development of fish habitat, access to the stream for management activities, along with the prohibition of new buildings or structures, excavating, filling, dumping, tree cutting, etc. In some regions (southern MN), agricultural tillage setbacks are also established.Minnesota established a new perennial vegetation buffer law protecting up to 50 feet along all public waters including lakes, rivers and streams, and buffers of 16.5 feet along public ditches. The purpose is to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment. Additional benefits exist which overlap and impact stream conservation easements. The deadline for implementation of the new buffers along all public waters was November 1, 2017. The deadline for public ditches is November 1, 2018.

Monday January 28, 2019 4:00pm - 4:20pm EST

4:20pm EST

(SYMPOSIA-06) Effect of Beaver on Brook Trout Habitat in North Shore Lake Superior Streams
AUTHORS: Dr. Andrew Hafs, Kathryn Renik – Bemidji State University

ABSTRACT: In Minnesota, Beaver Castor canadensis are considered to have an overall negative affect on native Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis. Brook trout provide a valued and productive sport fishery to the North Shore streams of Lake Superior and since revival of the Beaver population from past trapping and timber harvest, a need emerges to examine the complex ecological relationship where the two taxa interact. Suitable Brook Trout habitat is characterized by cold, spring-fed water with silt-free rocky substrate and abundant cover, all of which Beaver may directly, or indirectly, affect. Data collection occurred on 80 (200 m) stream sections and 22 beaver ponds spanning the North Shore during summers 2017 and 2018. A habitat suitability index (HSI) model was employed, and through interpolation in geographic information systems (GIS), maps depicting Brook Trout habitat of sampled stream sections were produced. The average HSI and suitable area (m<sup>2</sup>/100 m<sup>2</sup>) of each sampled reach were compared to Beaver related activity, including reach slope, distance to nearest Beaver pond, and number of dams upstream of sampled sites. Classification regression trees were used to identify significant thresholds in which Beaver activity influenced the amount or quality of Brook Trout habitat. Preliminary results from 2017 data indicated that a greater area of suitable Brook Trout habitat in North Shore streams was achieved when the maximum tree line width of the nearest upstream Beaver pond was = 71.23 m.  Anticipated results from 2018 will be presented contingent on completion of data analysis. Since the effect of Beaver on Brook Trout varies regionally, this study will provide a simple decision-making flow chart to aid in the development of management strategies pertaining to these two species in North Shore, Lake Superior streams.

Monday January 28, 2019 4:20pm - 4:40pm EST