Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forestry and Natural Resources

First Advisor

Reuben Goforth

Committee Chair

Reuben Goforth

Committee Member 1

Kevin Gibson

Committee Member 2

Tomas Höök


Backwater habitats of large rivers provide habitat for aquatic biota and influence important predator-prey interactions in fishes and other aquatic organisms. However, these areas often exhibit turbid conditions and lack habitat complexity. Restoration of lentic habitats through direct habitat manipulations has shown success in prior efforts, but these methods have not been tested in backwater habitats of large rivers. I attempted to create habitat in an Ohio River embayment by establishing founder colonies of aquatic macrophytes coupled with the placement of underwater gravel beds. I also evaluated the effects of total suspended solids (TSS) on overwintering structures of American Pondweed Potamogeton nodosus and Broadleaf Arrowhead Sagittaria latifolia to improve understanding of factors preventing establishment of aquatic macrophytes in turbid waters. Additionally, I evaluated the success of establishing founder colonies of Broadleaf Arrowhead, American Water Willow Justicia americana, and American Pondweed using various exclosure types and sizes in an Ohio River embayment. Finally, I sampled fishes in the embayment both before and after habitat enhancement efforts to attempt to detect responses by individual species. I found no differences in either morphology or tissue mass for American Pondweed winterbuds or Broadleaf Arrowhead tubers grown under seven levels of TSS ranging from 0-90 mg/L, suggesting that these structures can properly develop under turbid, low light conditions in shallow water. I also found high initial and subsequent year survival of American Water Willow and American Pondweed plants planted in protective exclosures. However, I found low overall early and subsequent year survival of Broadleaf Arrowhead planted using the same exclosures. Finally, I found high interannual variability for relative abundance, density, and mean length for dominant fishes in the embayment between 2012 and 2013. I was able to provide preliminary fish community data for the embayment at the Bryant Creek-Ohio River confluence. Overall, I was able to successfully establish founder colonies of American Water Willow and American Pondweed in the embayment and increase the local habitat complexity. Additionally, I was able to build on current understanding of factors leading to successful restoration techniques in freshwater ecosystems.