Fish Tags - The Old/New Tool for Assessing Impacts of Reservoir Operations on Migratory Fish and Critical Habitat

Project ID: 8112
Principal Investigator: Dmitri Vidergar
Research Topic: Fish Passage and Entrainment
Priority Area Assignments: 2012 (Climate Adaptation)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2012 and 2013
Keywords: archival sensor tags, pit tags, thermal remote sensing, water quality changes due to climate change, partnering with common fish monitoring projects, habitat fragmentation, and reduced genetic fitness.

Research Question

Can fish behavioral data in combination with water temperature and thermal imagery data be a useful tool for indentifying: (1) if reservoir operations alter migration timing of bull trout, (2) presence of thermal refuges along a migration corridor, or (3) greater resolution of the effects of climate change in an aquatic ecosystem than site-specific monitoring sites? (Bull trout is the only Endangered Species Act [ESA] listed species in the proposed study area; however, the use of these methods could be applied to any Bureau of Reclamation [Reclamation] project with migratory fishes.)

Need and Benefit

Reclamation is often required, through biological opinions, to perform lengthy field studies or to conduct extensive annual monitoring because methods are not available to define impacts of reservoir operations on migratory cues (fish behavior). Furthermore, effects of climate change on critical habitat could place more importance on reservoir operations for ESA-protected migratory fishes and critical habitat. Currently the tools most commonly used to make inferences about water temperature are from nonmobile, site-specific monitoring equipment. Although good for certain applications, these data may suggest environmental conditions have reached or exceeded critical thresholds for particular species when those conditions only exist at a specific location and not across a larger scale.

Other researchers have used methods similar to those in this proposal to describe: (1) water temperature preferences for migratory bull trout using archival tags (Dunham et al 2010), (2) available temperature habitat using thermal remote sensing for water temperature assessments (Torgersen et al. 2001 and Deitchman 2009), and (3) probability of habitat use based on radio telemetry data (Salow 2001; Hostettler 2005; and many others). However, to our knowledge, no author has combined these methods together to make inferences about reservoir operations on critical habitat or migratory cues of ESA-listed fishes.

Contributing Partners

Engineering, University of Idaho

Research Products

Data collected through this study would be summarized in a completion report, but also used in the analysis of other projects (listed in Research Strategy section). Temperature and depth data collected through the use of archival tags would be used in the following projects that are currently scheduled to occur: 1. Water quality modeling in Arrowrock Reservoir (addressing Term and Condition 1.b.), 2. Behavioral response of bull trout to ramping rates downstream of Anderson Ranch Reservoir (2.b.), 3. Bull trout population monitoring in the Boise River Basin (monitoring requirements defined in 2005 Opinion), and 4. Critical Habitat consultation currently being conducted by Reclamation staff for bull trout.

Additionally, study data would be used by climate change scientists (project partner: Isaak and Horan) to model the effects of water temperature changes within the migration corridor of bull trout. Results from Isaaks et al. work will be published in a separate report.

Last Updated: June 29, 2015