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Testing ecological tradeoffs of a new tool for removing fine sediment in a spring-fed stream

March 1, 2014

Excessive fine sediment is a focus of stream restoration work because it can impair the structure and function of streams, but few methods exist for removing sediment in spring-fed streams. We tested a novel method of sediment removal with the potential to have minimal adverse effects on the biological community during the restoration process. The Sand Wand system, a dredgeless vacuum developed by Streamside Technologies, was used to experimentally remove fine sediment from Kackley Springs, a spring creek in southeastern Idaho. We assessed the effects of the Sand Wand on stream physical habitat and macroinvertebrate composition for up to 60 days after the treatment. We documented changes in multiple habitat variables, including stream depth, median particle size, and the frequency of embedded substrate in stream reaches that were treated with the Sand Wand. We also found that macroinvertebrate composition was altered even though common macroinvertebrate metrics changed little after the treatment. Our results suggest that the Sand Wand was effective at removing fine sediments in Kackley Springs and did minimal harm to macroinvertebrate function, but the Sand Wand was not ultimately effective in improving substrate composition to desired conditions. Additional restoration techniques are still needed to decrease the amount of fine sediment.