• 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.


A Landscape Approach for Fisheries Database Compilation and Predictive Modeling

Science Need(s)

Provide the data foundation for evaluating 1) interactions between ecosystems and hydrology, 2) impacts of climate change and land/resource management to watersheds and associated hydroecologic resources, 3) impacts of climate change to surface water and ground water dependent habitats and species, and 4) improved monitoring and inventory of watersheds and their associated infrastructure and ecosystems (including pathogens and invasive species)

Grantee: Arizona Game and Fish Department
Principle Investigators: Bill Stewart, Nicole Eiden, Dr. Julian Olden
Cooperative Agreement:  $108,584 in non-Federal funds and $99,661 in Federal funds provided by Bureau of Reclamation
Project Duration: 2012-2014

Project Goal

Produce a defensible data set and decision tool for the conservation of fish and other aquatic and riparian species in Arizona by synthesizing and refining fisheries data and models at the watershed scale, including information on species distribution and abundance and landscape-scale species distribution models. Information collected will be used as part of Arizona Game and Fish Department’s and the Western Governors’ Association Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) and set the foundation on which managers can assess the impacts of water use, biological invasions, and climate change on biological resources in Arizona.  Provide expertise and personnel to New Mexico to create similar models for shared Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Brief Project Description

A strong data foundation is needed to inform science-based decisions for fisheries management at a watershed level. In preparation for a shift towards comprehensive watershed-scale planning, AGFD is developing a fisheries data management system with an initial focus on compiling and formatting several hundred thousand fish survey and stocking records. Fish data will be integrated within a Geographic Information System (GIS) by georeferencing observations to an existing national spatial framework (National Hydrography Dataset), which will allow for broader transferability to watersheds shared with neighboring states, creating a seamless layer not limited by state boundaries.

In addition to the ongoing effort and need to synthesize and refine fisheries data and models at the watershed scale, the AGFD has also created landscape-scale species distribution models for 35 fish species as outlined in the Species of Greatest Conservation Need list of the State Wildlife Action Plan. Arizona's landscape-scale species distribution models are also being used in other projects, most notably the Western Governors Association (WGA), Critical Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT). AGFD will also offer neighboring states both the expertise and personnel to create similar models for shared Species of Greatest Conservation Need. This partnership would not only benefit the neighbor state with the creation of SDMs for Departmental need/use, but would also fulfill the need of other projects such as the WGA CHAT's effort.

Project Location

Arizona and New Mexico

Project Tasks

  • Host workshop with stakeholders and scientists to identify important biotic and abiotic variables necessary for predictive model development of desired populations of aquatic species and identify data sources.
  • Compile fish observation records into a robust, centralized database that is integrated within a Geographic Information System (GIS) and documented through detailed metadata. Fish records are being formatted to FINS database standards, using existing national standards where possible (USGS Geographic Names Information System, National Hydrography Dataset GIS framework, EPA/USGS-defined reach codes, American Fisheries Society species nomenclature).
  • Work with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to develop a species parameter database for Species of Greatest Conservation Need shared between Arizona and New Mexico.
  • Develop coarse scale species habitat distribution models that will feed into the Decision Support Systems being developed as part of the WGA Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools (CHAT). Models will represent the potential distribution for an individual species, using a specific set of parameters for each species habitat distribution model, including vegetation, elevation and slope associations(where applicable), expert input and known occurrences.
  • Develop site specific predictor models.
  • Ground truth modeling results.
  • Submit peer-reviewed journal article.

Project Deliverables

  • Fish distribution layers from FINS database available via AGFD GIS data download website.
  • FINS GIS framework data layers (24k stream, waterbodies, and springs/tank point data) available on AGFD GIS data download website.
  • Fish data contributed to National Fisheries Data Infrastructure.
  • Species parameter database for Species of Greatest Conservation Need shared between Arizona and New Mexico.
  • Presentation at Esri GIS International User Conference, Arizona-New Mexico Chapter of American Fisheries Society, National American Fisheries Society Conference, and Desert Fishes Council meeting.
  • Journal article.

Opportunities to learn more

  1. Presentations (if available)
    Webinars (link if available)
    Meetings (information and/or link if available)
    National Fisheries Data Infrastructure (LINK: http://ecosystems.usgs.gov/fisheriesdata/index.aspx)
    Multi-State Aquatic Resources Information System (MARIS) [LINK: http://www.marisdata.org/]

Documents Available for Download

  1. Project Proposal