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Project ID: 2006MA60B

Title: Using Hydromorphological Signatures To Determine Flow Related Habitat Thresholds For Instream Communities

Project Type: Research

Start Date: 03/01/2006

End Date: 02/29/2008

Congressional District: 1st

Focus Categories: Hydrology, Ecology, Management and Planning

Keywords: Instream flows, fish habitat, river restoration, state policy, networking

Principal Investigator: Parasiewicz, Piotr

Federal Funds: $24,898

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $50,644

Abstract: Many states in New England presently face problems in river management resulting from three centuries of industrial and urban development. In Massachusetts, the recently published Water Policy recognizes that "One of the state's biggest challenges is maintaining sufficient quantities of streamflow so as to sustain ecological and anthropogenic demands." Further, the Water Policy recommends development of scientifically sound methods to protect and restore the physical integrity of the state's waters. In particular it is necessary to determine whether there are flow-related ecologically justifiable thresholds for ecosystem change within rivers and streams.

The goal of this project is an effective method for the determination of flow-related habitat thresholds that shape aquatic communities in rivers. Proposed approach would simplify data collection to visual estimates of hydraulic patterns. We build upon a newly developed French method of using hydraulic distribution score-cards, called hydraulic signatures as a habitat metrics. These patterns could then be used with habitat models to predict the probable composition of fish communities as well as other aquatic communities. Data collected from previous research projects in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut will be used to show proof of concept. Specifically, the project objectives are:

  1. Use previously collected data to identify river-specific patterns of hydromorphologic (HMU) signatures.
  2. Determine fish habitat corresponding to specific HMU signatures using existing habitat models, literature values, and expert opinion.
  3. Validate the capacity of the HMU signatures to predict fish communities.
  4. Develop the scientific basis and solicit stakeholder input (through a workshop) to identify flow-dependent thresholds for fish and other aquatic communities.

To evaluate the effectiveness of using HMU signatures in determining fish communities as part of an overall methodology for quantifying in-stream flow requirements, we have developed a research plan that combines data compilation, field work, and statistical analysis. This research will improve our basic understanding of the linkages between geomorphology and aquatic ecosystem health. The combination of HMU signatures, field techniques, and modeling will constitute a new overall methodology that will provide a scientific basis for understanding thresholds of change in biotic communities as a result of changes in streamflow.

This project also contains a significant information transfer component. It will provide an opportunity for mentoring undergraduate students in engineering and the sciences. Students will learn field techniques, laboratory analyses, modeling activities, and data analyses from their faculty mentors as well as from each other. Each student will complete an independent research project and will present their results at a College science symposium. We will also convene a workshop including stakeholders from government, NGOs and academia. The workshop will show how we can quantify changes in flow duration, (through the HMU signatures), as well as solicit input as to how to identify the thresholds of change for multiple taxa. We will also discuss how these methods may be translated into policy recommendations for instream flow standards.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Thursday, May 21, 2009
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