Fish assemblages, connectivity, and habitat rehabilitation in a diked Great Lakes coastal wetland complex.
Fish and plant assemblages in the highly modified Crane Creek coastal wetland complex of Lake Erie were sampled to characterize their spatial and seasonal patterns and to examine the implications of the hydrologic connection of diked wetland units to Lake Erie. Fyke netting captured 52 species and an abundance of fish in the Lake Erie-connected wetlands, but fewer than half of those species and much lower numbers and total masses of fish were captured in diked wetland units. Although all wetland units were immediately adjacent to Lake Erie, there were also pronounced differences in water quality and wetland vegetation between the hydrologically isolated and lake-connected wetlands. Large seasonal variations in fish assemblage composition and biomass were observed in connected wetland units but not in disconnected units. Reestablishment of hydrologic connectivity in diked wetland units would allow coastal Lake Erie fish to use these vegetated habitats seasonally, although connectivity does appear to pose some risks, such as the expansion of invasive plants and localized reductions in water quality. Periodic isolation and drawdown of the diked units could still be used to mimic intermediate levels of disturbance and manage invasive wetland vegetation.