Constraints on recovery: using molecular methods to study connectivity of aquatic biota in rivers and streams
1. The 'Field of Dreams Hypothesis' states 'if we build it, they will come', referring to the assumption that if habitats are restored, species will recolonise them. However, the ability of a species to recolonise a restored site will depend not only on the appropriate habitat being present, but also on the ability to get there. This is likely to depend on both the species' dispersal behaviour and the position of a site in the landscape. 2. Animals with good potential for dispersal are more likely to be able to disperse to newly restored sites. Similarly, sites in lowland streams with limited altitudinal differences between sites may be easier to reach than upstream sites. This is because upstream sites are connected to one another via lowland streams that have different characteristics and therefore may be difficult for animals to traverse. 3. In this paper, genetic data from a range of freshwater species that have been analysed in my laboratory are used to assess the importance of life cycle and position in the landscape (i.e. upland versus lowland streams) on connectivity patterns (and thus recolonisation potential) among populations. 4. In general, contemporary dispersal across catchment boundaries is negligible, except for aquatic insects with an adult flight stage. Dispersal among streams within catchments appears to be more limited than was predicted from knowledge on life histories, except for fish in lowland rivers and streams. 5. As predicted, dispersal of fish, crustaceans and molluscs among streams within catchments is significantly greater in lowland rivers than in upland streams. 6. Overall, these analyses suggest that, with the exception of most insects, and fishes in lowland rivers, natural recolonisation of restored sites is only likely from sites within the same stream. If a species has disappeared from the whole stream, then restoration of habitat alone may not be sufficient for its re-establishment.