Watershed Classification for Salmon Productivity--a Multivariate Landscape Characterization Process for Selecting Restoration Sites

Project ID: 8940
Principal Investigator: Michael Newsom
Research Topic: Ecosystem Needs
Funded Fiscal Years: 2009
Keywords: None

Research Question

This project will extend work begun by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center on a landscape classification system to predict salmon productivity relative to natural landscape features and anthropogenic landscape modifications. The research hypothesis is that there are distinct landscape signatures for potential salmon productivity that can be used to plan habitat restoration actions like those conducted by Reclamation for the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) Biological Opinion. The methodology under development could be adapted to predict other landscape-related phenomena like water supply. Phase II using National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Reclamation funding will develop and test spatial clustering algorithms using the Geographic Information System (GIS) layers constructed by NOAA in Phase I. Phase III will add anthropogenic layers and test the algorithms.

Need and Benefit

Reclamation water projects serve a large portion of the Columbia River Basin's agricultural, municipal, and industrial water users. Reclamation, therefore, plays a very large role in creating an infrastructure that is both essential to the economy of the Basin and potentially significant to the survival of Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed salmon. Reclamation mitigates for the loss of salmon fisheries due to the funding and construction of Federal dams by funding hatchery projects. Reclamation also avoids jeopardy under the Endangered Species Act for the operation of Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) dams by meeting certain Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPAs) in the FCRPS Biological Opinion, including modified hydropower operations, habitat restoration, hatchery reforms, and monitoring and evaluation. Reclamation uses Congressionally-approved appropriations of approximately eighteen million dollars annually to plan and monitor habitat restoration and hatchery reform projects to meet performance standards in the Biological Opinion.

Reclamation is working with regional partners in several forums, especially the Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership (PNAMP), to prioritize and implement monitoring programs. The Action Agencies have adopted monitoring programs in select river basins to better understand the effects of mitigation projects on salmon and steelhead populations. These programs are part of a region-wide effort to monitor fish and wildlife populations, water quality and climate change in Intensively Monitored Watersheds (IMW).

These intensive monitoring projects will inform fish managers of the key population limiting factors; develop and test population models, monitoring protocols, field techniques, and data management guidelines; and evaluate in detail the relationships between various habitat restorations and hatchery reforms on fish habitat and fish populations.

Because IMW work is expensive and time-consuming, the Biological Opinion calls for the development of tools or models to use the information developed in the IMWs to predict the effect of restoration in less intensively monitored watersheds. This proposal will develop one of several tools that should help Reclamation to plan habitat restoration and hatchery reform actions. The research hypothesis is that we can develop landscape classifications that functionally predict salmon distribution, abundance, and productivity. GIS layers for such features as geology, hydrography, forest, range, agriculture, roads, fish abundance, fish productivity, and fish distribution, and water quality have been created in Phase I. This research project will support Phase II for researchers to develop algorithms to link landscape features with salmon abundance, productivity, and distribution, and Phase III for researchers to test the algorithms using other GIS layers representing anthropogenic changes that are believed to be significant to salmon.

This research potentially could save millions of dollars in mitigation expenditures by:

* Developing relationships between natural and anthropogenic landscape features and fish populations that can be used to choose the basins where projects are likely to result in significant population improvements

* Identifying, when used in conjunction with a fish production model being developed for Reclamation, which projects within those basins are likely to produce the greatest effects

* Predicting what the population benefits will likely be in basins where intensive monitoring will not be performed.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Please contact research@usbr.gov about research products related to this project.

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Last Updated: 4/4/17