Conceptualizing alternate regimes in a large floodplain-river ecosystem: Water clarity, invasive fish, and floodplain vegetation

Kristen L. Bouska, Jeffrey N. Houser, Nathan R. De Jager, Deanne C. Drake, Scott F. Collins, Daniel K. Gibson-Reinemer, Meredith A. Thomsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regime shifts - persistent changes in the structure and function of an ecosystem - are well-documented for some ecosystems and have informed research and management of these ecosystems. In floodplain-river ecosystems, there is growing interest from restoration practitioners in ecological resilience, yet regime shifts remain poorly understood in these ecosystems. To understand how regime shifts may apply to floodplain-river ecosystems, we synthesize our understanding of ecosystem dynamics using an alternate regimes conceptual framework. We present three plausible sets of alternate regimes relevant to natural resource management interests within the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River. These alternate regimes include: 1) a clear water and abundant vegetation regime vs. a turbid water and sparse vegetation regime in lentic, off-channel areas, 2) a diverse native fish community regime vs. an invasive-dominated fish community regime, and 3) a regime characterized by a diverse and dynamic mosaic of floodplain vegetation types vs. one characterized as a persistent invasive wet meadow monoculture. For each set of potential alternate regimes, we review available literature to synthesize known or hypothesized feedback mechanisms that reinforce regimes, controlling variables that drive regime transitions, and current restoration pathways. Our conceptual models provide preliminary support for the existence of alternate regimes in floodplain-river ecosystems. Quantitatively testing hypotheses contained within the conceptual model are important next steps in evaluating the model. Ultimately, the synthesis and evaluation of alternate regimes can inform the utility of resilience concepts in restoration and management on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River and improve our understanding of ecosystem dynamics in other large, heavily managed floodplain-river ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110516
Pages (from-to)110516
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Jun 15 2020


  • INHS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Engineering


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