Montane meadows are areas of high biodiversity and provide many important ecosystem services; however, degradation of 40–60% of these habitats in the Sierra Nevada region of California has left many of these areas impaired. The “pond-and-plug” meadow-restoration technique is 1 type of treatment implemented to restore montane meadows. The objectives of this technique are to re-water the meadow and promote downstream flow by increasing the water-table elevation and providing additional water storage that will promote the growth of mesic and hydric vegetation that maintains and stabilizes stream channels. However, aquatic habitat and the composition and functioning of aquatic communities in these systems post-treatment are poorly documented or understood. We evaluated: (1) fish habitat, community composition, and relative abundance among recently created ponds spanning the range of pond habitats; (2) seasonal movement and survival of fish within and among ponds; and (3) food web structure in ponds. We documented over-summer and winter survival in the fish community and short-distance movement by 1 species occupying the ponds. Mark-recapture data suggest that all fish species present are capable of surviving both summer and winter conditions when pond conditions could be most limiting. Food web structure among intensively sampled ponds was similar, with overlapping isotopic niche width for dominant taxa. However, basal resource diversity (BRD) varied among ponds, with those having higher macrophyte cover also showing greater BRD. Our findings suggest that pond-and-plug techniques can provide habitat for native fishes that are able to tolerate departures from the species thermal and dissolved oxygen optima. Future meadow treatments could benefit from short-term restoration techniques such as pond-and-plug to allow for longer-term processes to influence meadow condition over time.
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Vol. 102 • No. 1