Date of Award

6-2016

Degree Name

MS in Forestry Sciences

Department

Natural Resources Management

Advisor

Brian C. Dietterick

Abstract

Scotts Creek, located in northern Santa Cruz County, maintains the southernmost persistent population of Central California Coast (CCC) Coho Salmon (endangered) in addition to CCC steelhead (threatened). Fisheries biologists believe overwinter mortality due to lack of refuge habitat is the primary factor limiting salmonid production. Instream rearing habitat may also be limiting, especially during drought years. The legacy effects of historic land use practices, including dredging, wood removal, and the construction of levees, continued to limit refuge and rearing opportunities. A restoration project was implemented to improve refuge and rearing opportunities for salmonids along lower Scotts Creek by removing portions of the deteriorating levee, grading new connections with existing off-channel features, enhancing tributary confluences, constructing alcove habitat features at the margins of the stream channel, and constructing large wood complexes (LWCs) instream.

Novel restoration techniques were employed on an experimental basis. Whole in-situ alder trees were pushed into the stream channel with their root systems left partially intact to establish living key pieces. Individual log, boulder, and rootwad LWC components were attached together with couplers that permitted some freedom of independent movement among the individual components. LWCs were braced against live, standing trees and stabilized with boulder ballasts placed on the streambed, which eliminated excavation of the streambed/banks and the need to dewater or divert the stream during construction.

Project performance, changes to physical habitat characteristics, and changes to stream morphology associated with implementation were monitored using habitat assessment methods derived from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) salmonid habitat survey protocol (Flosi et al. 2010), and topographic survey techniques and data analysis adapted from Columbia Habitat Monitoring Protocol (Bouwes et al. 2011). Preliminary results indicated that LWCs remained stable and functional. In addition, implementation of the restoration project increased pool frequency, low-flow pool volume, instream cover, frequency of instream, alcove, and off-channel refuge habitat features, and frequency of points of connectivity with the floodplain. Long-term monitoring will be required to determine the survivorship, decay rates, and overall persistence of alder recruits.

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