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Stream classification of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River System to support modeling of aquatic habitat response to climate change

September 18, 2014

A stream classification and associated datasets were developed for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin to support biological modeling of species response to climate change in the southeastern United States. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of the Interior’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center established the Southeast Regional Assessment Project (SERAP) which used downscaled general circulation models to develop landscape-scale assessments of climate change and subsequent effects on land cover, ecosystems, and priority species in the southeastern United States. The SERAP aquatic and hydrologic dynamics modeling efforts involve multiscale watershed hydrology, stream-temperature, and fish-occupancy models, which all are based on the same stream network. Models were developed for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin and subbasins in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and for the Upper Roanoke River Basin in Virginia.

The stream network was used as the spatial scheme through which information was shared across the various models within SERAP. Because these models operate at different scales, coordinated pair versions of the network were delineated, characterized, and parameterized for coarse- and fine-scale hydrologic and biologic modeling.

The stream network used for the SERAP aquatic models was extracted from a 30-meter (m) scale digital elevation model (DEM) using standard topographic analysis of flow accumulation. At the finer scale, reaches were delineated to represent lengths of stream channel with fairly homogenous physical characteristics (mean reach length = 350 m). Every reach in the network is designated with geomorphic attributes including upstream drainage basin area, channel gradient, channel width, valley width, Strahler and Shreve stream order, stream power, and measures of stream confinement. The reach network was aggregated from tributary junction to tributary junction to define segments for the benefit of hydrological, soil erosion, and coarser ecological modeling. Reach attributes are summarized for each segment. In six subbasins segments are assigned additional attributes about barriers (usually impoundments) to fish migration and stream isolation. Segments in the six sub-basins are also attributed with percent urban area for the watershed upstream from the stream segment for each decade from 2010–2100 from models of urban growth.

On a broader scale, for application in a coarse-scale species-response model, the stream-network information is aggregated and summarized by 256 drainage subbasins (Hydrologic Response Units) used for watershed hydrologic and stream-temperature models. A model of soil erodibility based on the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation also was developed at this scale to parameterize a model to evaluate stream condition.

The reach-scale network was classified using multivariate clustering based on modeled channel width, valley width, and mean reach gradient as variables. The resulting classification consists of a 6-cluster and a 12-cluster classification for every reach in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin. We present an example of the utility of the classification that was tested using the occurrence of two species of darters and two species of minnows in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, the blackbanded darter and Halloween darter, and the bluestripe shiner and blacktail shiner.

Publication Year 2014
Title Stream classification of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River System to support modeling of aquatic habitat response to climate change
DOI 10.3133/sir20145080
Authors Caroline M. Elliott, Robert B. Jacobson, Mary Freeman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2014-5080
Index ID sir20145080
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center