Habitat, Populations, and Biological Productivity

Improve knowledge of UCFR habitat, populations, and biological productivity

Related NRDP Restoration Plan Limiting Factors:

  • Lack of aquatic habitat (limited pools, in-stream wood, woody vegetation)
  • Streambank erosion/lack of woody vegetation cover on streambanks
  • Fish passage (diversion structures)

Objective 1

Understand how riparian and instream aquatic habitat quality varies in responses to changing conditions along upstream-downstream gradients in physicochemical and hydrologic conditions.

Working Hypotheses

  • A lack of pools, wood and overhanging woody vegetation reduce cover and shade for fish, limit allochthonous nutrient and organic inputs and associated food web components, and in general diminished habitat for invertebrates, aquatic insects and fish.
  • Natural high terraces along the channel contribute excess sediment to the channel clogging interstitial spaces for micro organisms and unvegetated contaminated eroding banks contribute toxic levels of metals to the aquatic environment.
  • Generate a spatially explicit map of riparian vegetation including species composition and biomass estimates using combination of NRCS and Lotic Intersite Nitrogen Experiment protocols for ground survey and remote sensing.
  • Map river habitat quality for game fishes following appropriate protocols. Include changes in habitat quality related to periods of algal bloom.
  • Geum: Existing riparian vegetation communities have been mapped for Phases 1-11 and 13-16, all the way through Deer Lodge except for a section immediately above town. For remediated reaches, as-built revegetation maps are available.
  • UM: mapping of fish habitat quality (riparian and in-channel) is planed and will include large-scale remote-sensing of algal biomass. To be executed by UM PhD student, Taylor Gold Quiros, Valett Lab

Objective 2

Understand how invertebrate community composition and food web character varies in responses to changing conditions along upstream-downstream gradients in physicochemical and hydrologic conditions.

Working Hypotheses

Pathways exist for metals to concentrate in aquatic organisms sufficient to cause fish kills, influence other aquatic communities.

  • Use spatially distributed sampling of benthic resources (epilithic biofilms, coarse and fine particular matter, filamentous algai, allochthonous organic matter), over an annual time course to quantify food availability to macroinvertebrates.
  • Use spatially distributed sampling of macroinvertebrates over an annual time course to estimate prey composition, abundance and production.
  • Use trophic basis of production to address organic matter flows generated by prey and identify primary food supplies to macroinvertebrates.
  • Use stable isotope tracers (i.e., 13C and 15N) to address trophic level positions and linkages among invertebrates and their food sources.
  • Assess how landscape position, trophic position, and taxonomic composition tie invertebrates to their food sources and influence metal body burdens.
  • UM: Investigation of basal resources (i.e., food sources for invertebrates) is being executed by MS student Chelsea Wisotzkey, Colman Lab.
  • MSU: Invesigation of invertebrate production and flow web linking consumers to resources and addressing food abundance for fish, PhD student, Jose Sanchez, Cross Lab
  • UM: mapping of fish habitat quality (riparian and in-channel) is planed and will include large-scale remote-sensing of algal biomass. To be executed by UM PhD student, Taylor Gold Quiros.
  • UM: linking basal resource use to invertebrate body burdens investigated by MS student Chelsea Wisotzkey, Colman Lab.

Objective 3

Determine density and productivity of stream fishes as they relate to UCFR gradients in physicochemical and hydrologic conditions.

Working Hypotheses

Pathways exist for metals to concentrate in aquatic organisms sufficient to cause fish kills, influence other aquatic communities.

  • Use spatially distributed sampling of fishes over space and time in coordination with MT FWP to address population dynamics and characterize fish community composition.
  • Use a combination of gut analysis, stable isotope tracers (i.e. 13C and 15N), and metal body burdens to address trophic level positions and link fish to invertebrate prey sources.
  • Use a comination of physiological growth modeling (e.g., Wisconsin model) and the trophic basis of production to address organic matter flows generated by prey and identify primary macroinvertebrate prey species for trout.
  • Compare fish prey demand to invertebrate production to address potential food limitation over space and time with focus on summer trophic dynamics to address the influences of algal blooms on fish prductivity.
  • FWP: MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks data to be linked to fish production and food supploy investigations, FWP representative, Nathan Cook.
  • UM: Investigations linking fish sampling to gut analysis, stable isotopes, and numerical models to address fish community structure and trophic links to invertebrate prey, Taylor Gold Quiros, PhD Student, Valett Lab
  • UM: Growth/production assessment of fishes and linkage to prey production (coordination with MSU investigation of invertebrate flow web), Taylor Gold Quiros, PhD Student, Valett Lab

UCFWG Members working on Habitat

UCFWG Members working on Foodweb