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Developing Conservation Priorities to Protect Fish Biodiversity in the Lower Colorado River Basin

Investigators
Kristen Pitts, M.S. student
Dr. Craig Paukert
Dr. Joanna Whittier
Dr. Julian Olden,
University of Washington

Project Supervisor
Dr. Craig Paukert
Dr. Joanna Whittier


Funding
USGS GAP Analysis Program
Cooperators
Over 12 partners from state and federal agencies, NGO’s and universities in the Southwest
Location
Lower Colorado River Basin,
AZ, NM, UT, CA
Completion
July 2009
   
The Little Colorado River, Arizona

Objectives

Identify landscape-level habitat metrics associated with native fish presence in the Lower Colorado River Basin (LCRB).

Develop a classification hierarchy for aquatic habitats for determining conservation areas.

Create an ecological risk index based on anthropogenic stressors; and maintain an online database on unpublished documents related to the LCRB.

Progress and Results

Non-native introductions and habitat alteration have substantially changed the native fish fauna in the Lower Colorado River Basin. Identifying the areas that have the highest loss of native fish diversity (or highest increase in non-native fish diversity) can help identify areas that resource managers may focus on for conservation. Although anthropogenic activities often influence ecosystem processes and biotic communities, rarely are they integrated into conservation planning due to the difficulty in quantifying threats to biotic integrity. Over 1.5 million fish records have been collected and complied into a database. Various landscape-level habitat metrics and anthropogenic stressors have also been calculated. To date, all stressor and landscape level metrics have been summarized by catchment and upstream watershed. Stressor data are currently being related to fish metrics. The boundaries for the classification hierarchy have been completed and are under review by regional biologists. Ultimately, these data will be synthesized to allow land managers to set conservation priorities.

Products
Paukert, C. P., K. L. Pitts, J. B. Whittier, and J. D. Olden. 2011. Development and assessment of a landscape-level ecological threat index of the Lower Colorado River Basin. Ecological Indicators 11:304-310.

Whittier, J. B., C. P. Paukert, and K. Gido. 2006. Development of an Aquatic GAP for the Lower Colorado River Basin. Maxwell et al., editors. Gap Analysis Bulletin No. 14 USGS/BRD/Gap Analysis Program. Moscow, Idaho.

Pitts, K.L., C. Paukert, and J. Whittier. 2008. Utility of an ecological risk index to assess threats to native fishes: insights from the Verde River Basin, Arizona. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS.

Pitts, K.L., C. Paukert, and J. Whittier. 2008. Alteration of flow regime and its influence on fish assemblages within the Lower Colorado River Basin. Arizona/New Mexico Joint Annual Meeting, Prescott, AZ.

Pitts, K.L., C. Paukert, and J. Whittier. 2008. Evaluation of an ecological risk index in quantifying threats to fishes. Arizona/New Mexico Joint Annual Meeting, Prescott, AZ.

Whittier, J.B., C.P. Paukert, K.L. Pitts, and J. Olden. 2008. Building a classification hierarchy for the Lower Colorado River Basin to provide an ecological basis for selecting conservation areas. Arizona/New Mexico Joint Annual Meeting, Prescott, AZ.

Pitts, K.L., C. Paukert, and J. Whittier. 2007. Development and assessment of an ecological risk index for fishes in the Verde River Basin, Arizona. Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Madison, WI.

Whittier, J.B., C.P. Paukert, K.L. Pitts, and J.D. Olden. 2007. Lower Colorado River aquatic GAP: meeting the needs of stakeholders. National GAP Meeting, Asheville, NC.

Pitts, K.L., C.P. Paukert and J.B. Whittier. 2007. Hydrologic variability in the Lower Colorado River Basin: implications for fish conservation. American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Whittier, J.B., C.P. Paukert, K.L. Pitts, and J.D. Olden. 2007. The Lower Colorado River aquatic GAP project-an update. Arizona-New Mexico American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, NM.

Whittier, J. B., C. P. Paukert, and K. B. Gido. 2006. Development of an aquatic GAP for the Lower Colorado River Basin. Arizona/New Mexico American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Flagstaff, AZ.

Whittier, J. B., C. P. Paukert, and K. B. Gido. 2005. Development of an aquatic GAP for the Lower Colorado River Basin. National GAP Meeting, Reno, NV.