• Red Rocks with water in front of them in the desert.
  • Clouds behind Joshua Tree and bushes.
  • Desert flowers blooming in bushes in front of mountains in the desert.
  • Setting sun reflecting of clouds of orange and blue behind a joshua tree.
  • Hoover Dam intake towers with water behind the dam showing that it is not full.


Metacommunity Dynamics of Gila River Fishes

Science Need

Projecting the resiliency and vulnerability of natural or cultural resources that affect or are affected by water resources management in a changing climate and  Assessing and evaluating natural or cultural resources management practices and adaptation opportunities. 

Grantee: Kansas State University
Principle Investigators: Keith B. Gido, Thomas F. Turner, David L. Propst
Cooperative Agreement:  $188,518 in non-Federal funds and $187,235 in Federal funds provided by Bureau of Reclamation

Project Goal

If dispersal dynamics of native and nonnative fishes can be predicted by life history strategy, this research will provide a general framework for conservation that considers how community interaction and responses to extreme events (e.g., those predicted by climate change) are influenced by fragmenting populations. By developing decisions support models, hosting workshops, and presenting our findings to regional stakeholder groups, we aim to provide conservation and water resource agencies critical information from which they can use to inform conservation plans.

Brief Project Description

Freshwater systems are critically imperiled and continue to be threatened by human encroachment and water development. The upper Gila River in New Mexico is one of the last unobstructed rivers in the Colorado River basin with a mostly intact native fish fauna, including two federally listed and one state-listed fish species.  Kansas State University will develop methodologies or decision support tools to assess or evaluate current or existing resource management practices to learn and adapt to the effects of climate change on fish species. The researchers will investigate how the connectivity of the Gila River habitat impacts the fish population with respect to the behavior of native and non-native species.  

Project Location

Upper Gila River basin, New Mexico

Project Tasks

  1. 1. Select 2 to 4 bird focal species, and 2 to 4 reptile and amphibian focal species for which there is sufficient data and ecological knowledge to support the development of conceptual models. Candidate bird species include Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Common Black-Hawk, and Gray Hawk. Candidate herpetofauna include Northern Mexican Gartersnake, Canyon Treefrog, Narrow-headed Gartersnake, and Lowland Leopard Frog.
  2. 2. Develop conceptual models to synthesize, represent, and relate relevant life history information about focal species, as a basis for designing and interpreting statistical habitat models.
  3. 3. Build a GIS that contains spatially explicit data on species distributions, downscaled Global Circulation Model (GCM) data, hydrological data, and other candidate explanatory variables identified in conceptual models.
  4. 4. Model wildlife habitat by linking existing hydrologic, geomorphic, and wildlife models to assess how changes in water availability will affect riparian vegetation and riparian-obligate species. Populate the multivariate model with downscaled GCM data to estimate effects on wildlife habitat directly.
  5. 5. Use output from the riparian response model to simulate the effects of different climate-change scenarios on select riparian bird and herpetofauna species habitats.
  6. 6. Produce a set of maps and GIS layers for each bird and herpetofauna species modeled that show in a spatially explicit manner how and where riparian vegetation is expected to change and the resulting impacts to riparian obligate species. These analyses will form the foundation for a decision support system whereby managers can simulate different climate-change scenarios and view the expected results in an interactive website, a product of the NCCWSC project, managed at Northern Arizona University.

Project Deliverables

  1. Select focal species  and develop conceptual models – April 2012
  2. Build GIS – Sept. 2012
  3. Perform Hydrologic modeling using VIC  – Sept. 2012
  4. Model bird and herpetofauna habitat – Feb. 2013
  5. Project future distributions of bird and herpetofauna species– Aug. 2013
  6. Populate decision support tool with results  – Oct. 2013
  7. Write final report - Dec. 2013

Opportunities to learn more

  1. Presentations (link if available)
  2. Webinars (link if available)
  3. Meetings (information and/or link if available)

Documents Available for Download

  1. Project Proposal
  2. Performance Report