For example, Appalachian brook trout were once found in abundance from Canada to Georgia along the Appalachian Mountain Range. Logging practices in the early 1900s removed vegetation from mountain sides and stream banks. This greatly increased erosion and water temperatures subsequently decimating trout populations. As a result, Southern Appalachian brook trout could only be found remaining in the purist of headwater streams.
|Logging in the 19th century along the Appalachians led to the loss of Brook Trout (Source).|
|Dead Hemlocks in Great Smoky Mountains (Byron Levan).|
|Brook Trout health (Source).|
|Hemlock Wooly Adelgid distribution (Source).|
Note that the spread of Wooly Adelgid and the loss of Hemlocks are impacting areas where Brook Trout are already in major decline.
On a broader scale of vegetation impacts on fisheries, non-native exotic plants are a worldwide threat in fishery-plant interactions. Riparian areas undergo a lot of natural disturbance and their integrity depends on specific plant communities that filter contaminants and prevent erosion. Competition amongst native plants rarely allows for one single habitat to dominate in natural systems. Unfortunately, many riparian areas are being overrun by non-native plants that do not follow such rules. These ecological cheaters evolved in habitats much different than the ones that they newly call home, and therefore dominate systems that lack biological controls. Many of these plants are not good at preventing soil erosion. Further, dense invasive vegetation growth and painful brambles may also result in less fishing opportunities and subsequently less interest in fisheries conservation.
|Invasive salt cedars taking over entire riparian areas (Source).|
|Invasive aquatic vegetation can have devastating impacts on waterways (Source).|
Regardless of our choice of field, plant biologists and fisheries biologists may need to reconsider our distance. Cooperation may prove a fruitful effort in restoring the plant and fish communities we all depend on. With so many ailing fisheries and struggling plant communities, we must help each other to discover long term solutions to today’s problems.
By Byron Levan