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Keywords:

  • geomorphology;
  • instream habitat;
  • geostatistics;
  • hydraulic modelling;
  • spatial variability

Abstract

Reach-scale physical habitat assessment scores are increasingly used to make decisions about management. We characterized the spatial distribution of hydraulic habitat characteristics at the reach and sub-reach scales for four fish species using detailed two-dimensional hydraulic models and spatial analysis techniques (semi-variogram analyses). We next explored whether these hydraulic characteristics were correlated with commonly used reach-scale geomorphic assessment (RGA) scores, rapid habitat assessment (RHA) scores, or indices of fish biodiversity and abundance. River2D was used to calculate weighted usable areas (WUAs) at median flows, Q50, for six Vermont streams using modelled velocity, depth estimates, channel bed data and habitat suitability curves for blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus), brown trout (Salmo trutta), common shiner (Notropis cornutus) and white sucker (Catostomus commersoni) at both the adult and spawn stages. All stream reaches exhibited different spatial distributions of WUA ranging from uniform distribution of patches of high WUA to irregular distribution of more isolated patches. Streams with discontinuous, distinct patches of high score WUA had lower fish biotic integrity measured with the State of Vermont's Mixed Water Index of Biotic Integrity (MWIBI) than streams with a more uniform distribution of high WUA. In fact, the distribution of usable habitats may be a determining factor for fish communities. A relationship between predicted WUAs averaged at the reach scale and RGA or RHA scores was not found. Future research is needed to identify the appropriate spatial scales to capture the connections between usable patches of stream channel habitat. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.