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Evaluating methods to establish habitat suitability criteria: A case study in the upper Delaware River Basin, USA

October 1, 2016

Defining habitat suitability criteria (HSC) of aquatic biota can be a key component to environmental flow science. HSC can be developed through numerous methods; however, few studies have evaluated the consistency of HSC developed by different methodologies. We directly compared HSC for depth and velocity developed by the Delphi method (expert opinion) and by two primary literature meta-analyses (literature-derived range and interquartile range) to assess whether these independent methods produce analogous criteria for multiple species (rainbow trout, brown trout, American shad, and shallow fast guild) and life stages. We further evaluated how these two independently developed HSC affect calculations of habitat availability under three alternative reservoir management scenarios in the upper Delaware River at a mesohabitat (main channel, stream margins, and flood plain), reach, and basin scale. In general, literature-derived HSC fell within the range of the Delphi HSC, with highest congruence for velocity habitat. Habitat area predicted using the Delphi HSC fell between the habitat area predicted using two literature-derived HSC, both at the basin and the site scale. Predicted habitat increased in shallow regions (stream margins and flood plain) using literature-derived HSC while Delphi-derived HSC predicted increased channel habitat. HSC generally favoured the same reservoir management scenario; however, no favoured reservoir management scenario was the most common outcome when applying the literature range HSC. The differences found in this study lend insight into how different methodologies can shape HSC and their consequences for predicted habitat and water management decisions. Published 2016. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Publication Year 2016
Title Evaluating methods to establish habitat suitability criteria: A case study in the upper Delaware River Basin, USA
DOI 10.1002/rra.3025
Authors Heather S. Galbraith, Carrie J. Blakeslee, Jeffrey C. Cole, Colin Talbert, Kelly O. Maloney
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title River Research and Applications
Index ID 70182205
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center