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USGS WaterSMART activities

USGS WaterSMART activities

Delaware DSS

Locations in the Upper Delaware River Basin where the Decision Support System is being developed. - click to enlarge
Locations in the Upper Delaware River Basin where the Decision Support System is being developed. - click to enlarge
In collaboration with WaterSMARTs Delaware River Basin Focus Area, USGS ecologists and hydrologists with the Leetown Science Center-Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory (LSC-NARL) and the Fort Collins Science Center-Aquatic Systems Branch (FORT) are researching the ecological flow needs of a variety of freshwater species such as fishes, mussels and submerged aquatic vegetation in the Upper Delaware River Basin. The goal of this project is to develop a tool that can be used to evaluate how alternative flow management scenarios might affect habitat available for riverine biota.

To accomplish this, researchers are developing a suite of habitat suitability models, which provide measures of tolerable and preferred habitat for each species. This includes parameters such as depth, velocity, and temperature. In conjunction, researchers are developing two-dimensional hydrodynamic models to estimate pixel-scale (e.g., 1 m) values of these habitat variables over the range of flows experienced in the Upper Delaware River. These hydrodynamic models have been developed for 11 representative reaches on four sections of the Delaware River [West Branch (n = 2 reaches), East Branch (n = 3 reaches), Main stem (n = 3 reaches), Neversink River (n = 3 reaches)]. Bathymetric LiDAR is being tested as a means to develop better bathymetric maps to refine the two-dimensional modeling.

Example of the habitat suitability model. - click to enlarge
Example of the habitat suitability model. - click to enlarge
In addition, because temperature is an important parameter in habitat suitability models, work is underway to develop and incorporate a reach-wide temperature model (e.g., USGS SNTEMP model). For this work climate data are being collected from several nearby weather stations (e.g., Greater Binghamton Airport) and river temperature and discharge data are being collected from USGS gage stations. A Decision Support System (DSS) will be the main product of this work and it will integrate data from these models with the alternative flow management scenarios. The DSS will ultimately provide managers with the ability to evaluate how different flow scenarios affect the amount of available habitat for each species.

The DSS is being developed in a user-friendly graphic user's interface (GUI) that enables users to manually enter and modify the species-specific habitat suitability curves, spatially visualize the available habitat for each species and life stage, focus in on a particular hydroperiod of interest, and visualize the amount of available habitat by species for each flow management scenario. The DSS will be easily transferable to other river basins where flows are being managed to maintain/maximize native species diversity and ecological function.

Decision Support System for the Upper Delaware River (beta version) - click to enlarge
Decision Support System for the Upper Delaware River (beta version). - click to enlarge

Screen captures of the graphical user interface of the Decision Support System for the Upper Delaware River (beta version). The left figure shows a preliminary depth habitat suitability curve for brown trout (top left panel), a spatial representation of two-dimensional modeled depth and velocity at 758.8 cfs for the Delaware Mainstem #1 site (upper right two panels), and a composite habitat map (lower right panel).

The right figure shows example output of the GUI for brown trout spawning habitat under three alternative flow management scenarios: Revision 1, Revision 7, and the Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP). Top panel shows the output at the main stem Delaware #1 site for 1998 (spawning period highlighted); middle panel shows the total amount of available habitat (all reaches combined) for the three flows scenarios from 1996 to 1999; the bottom panel shows the amount of available habitat over the entire timeline that the DSS covers (1928-2000) for the entire study area (Basinwide) and by reach. This is an early version of the DSS and will be updated through stakeholder and partner feedback and as more data becomes available.

For further information please see:

USGS Leetown Science Center, Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory in Wellsboro, PA.

USGS Fort Collins Science Center, Fort Collins, CO. and

Smart River website, which provides background information on the DSS.

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