Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Mississippi
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Aldridge CA, Norris DM, Hatcher HR, Coppola G, Colvin ME, Miranda LE. 2022. Retention and dimensional changes of evergreen brush piles within a flood control reservoir. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 13(1):223– 235; e1944-687X.


Brush piles (i.e., trees and large woody debris) are often installed in reservoirs to supplement fish habitat. The retention and dimensional change of brush piles after installation is important information that can be used to maximize the effectiveness of this management action. We evaluated the retention and dimensional change of 70 eastern red cedar Juniperus virginiana and bald cypress Taxodium distichum brush piles in an embayment of a drawdown reservoir up to four annual cycles of submergence and exposure. We used satellite imagery to supplement our onsite measurements of retention. We also examined spatial patterns of brush pile retention and dimensional change. Brush piles were lost at 10% per year, and their volume was lost at 14% per year. We compared our rates of brush pile retention and dimensional change with those from a holdout data set of 50 brush piles. Estimates between data sets did not differ statistically. Spatial patterns of retention and dimensional change coincided with morphological features in our study area, suggesting that retention and dimensional change is influenced by variable physical forces (e.g., wave action and flow) at installation locations. Our estimates of brush pile retention and dimensional change can be used to generally sustain desirable brush densities. For example, to maintain a fixed total volume of brush in our study embayment, roughly 23% of the total brush volume installed would need to be replaced annually. Similar research in reservoirs managed for other purposes is needed, as length and cycle of inundation could lead to variable rates of retention and dimensional change. Additionally, advancements into computer-assisted detection and volume estimation could reduce the time and effort needed to monitor brush piles.