The restoration of stream corridors is becoming an increasingly important component of urban landscape planning, and the high cost of these projects necessitates the need to understand and address potential ecological obstacles to project success. The nutria (Myocastor coypus) is an invasive, semi-aquatic rodent native to South America that causes detrimental ecological impacts in riparian and wetland habitats throughout its introduced range, and techniques are needed to reduce nutria herbivory damage to urban stream restoration projects. We assessed the efficacy of standard Vexar® plastic mesh tubes in reducing nutria herbivory damage to newly established woody plants. The study was conducted in winter-spring 2009 at Delta Ponds, a 60-ha urban waterway in Eugene, Oregon. Woody plants protected by Vexar® tubes demonstrated 100% survival over the 3-month initial establishment period, while only 17% of unprotected plantings survived. Nutria demonstrated a preference for black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp trichocarpa) over red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) and willow (Salix spp). Camera surveillance showed that nutria were more active in unprotected rather than protected treatments. Our results suggest that Vexar® plastic mesh tubing can be an effective short-term herbivory mitigation tool when habitat use by nutria is low. Additionally, planting functionally equivalent woody plant species that are less preferred by nutria, and other herbivores, may be another method for reducing herbivory and improving revegetation success. This study highlights the need to address potential wildlife damage conflicts in the planning process for stream restoration in urban landscapes.
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Vol. 88 • No. 4