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Terrestrial wildlife communities are often overlooked as components of ecosystem restoration following dam removal. 

Researchers studied mammalian colonization and ungulate herbivory in association with revegetation efforts of dewatered reservoirs from 2014-2018 following the removal of two large dams on the Elwha River, Washington. Early seral restoration of these terrestrial habitats has included the presence of a diversity of granivores, insectivores, and herbivores, with elk demonstrating the strongest influence over portions of the study area. Small mammal colonization complements revegetation succession and demonstrates restoration of ecological processes, while large ungulates may be playing a more substantial role in shaping revegetation. This study represents a snapshot in time that is focused on initial changes in small mammal and ungulate communities as related to vegetation development, signaling progress in the restoration of a functioning riparian ecosystem. 

Buck in dewatered lakebed in the Elwha river basin
Buck in dewatered lakebed in the Elwha river basin. Photo courtesy Kim Sager-Fradkin, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

Photo courtesy Kim Sager-Fradkin, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe

McCaffery, R.M., Jenkins, K.J., Cendejas-Zarelli, S., Happe, P.J., Sager-Fradkin, K.A., 2020, Small mammals and ungulates respond to and interact with revegetation processes following dam removal: Food Webs, v. 25, p. e00159,