A Resilience Approach Can Improve Anadromous Fish Restoration

John Waldman, Karen A. Wilson, Martha Mather, and Noah P. Snyder

Most anadromous fish populations remain at low levels or are in decline despite substantial investments in restoration. We explore whether a resilience perspective (i.e., a different paradigm for understanding populations, communities, and ecosystems) is a viable alternative framework for anadromous fish restoration. Many life history traits have allowed anadromous fish to thrive in unimpacted ecosystems but have become contemporary curses as anthropogenic effects increase. This contradiction creates a significant conservation challenge but also makes these fish excellent candidates for a resilience approach. A resilience approach recognizes the need to maintain life history, population, and habitat characteristics that increase the ability of a population to withstand and recover from multiple disturbances. To evaluate whether a resilience approach represents a viable strategy for anadromous fish restoration, we review four issues: (1) how resilience theory can inform anadromous fish restoration, (2) how a resilience-based approach is fundamentally different than extant anadromous fish restoration strategies, (3) ecological characteristics that historically benefited anadromous fish persistence, and (4) examples of how human impacts harm anadromous fish and how a resilience approach might produce more successful outcomes. We close by suggesting new research and restoration directions for implementation of a resilience-based approach.

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