Aquatic Habitat Monitoring

Monitoring of fish population responses to climate change in the Skagit basin

WA State Intensively Monitored Watersheds grant:
($212,000/year, 2011–2015)

Additional Funds Needed for Completion: $2–5M over the next 25 years

Background and motivation: The Skagit River System is one of the most resilient and intact aquatic systems in the Pacific Northwest. While many other river systems have exhibited extinctions and extirpations of native species, the Skagit has retained its entire species complement, and has resisted colonization by nuisance and invasive species. However, because of climate change and expected changes in land use practices, we expect the Skagit River system to change greatly. These changes will have very important consequences on the distribution of habitats available for fish, and will likely result in concomitant responses in fish populations. By taking advantage of existing monitoring efforts, we can insure that we track future changes in fish populations in the future, and thereby improve our ability to adapt to the challenges of climate change by planning appropriate management activities (e.g., habitat acquisition, invasive species removals) that will insure abundant aquatic resources in the future.

Objectives: 1) Continue existing population monitoring efforts of aquatic resources in the Skagit tributaries, floodplains, the tidal delta, and nearshore of Skagit Bay, 2) Build monitoring capacity in these areas to better address predicted changes in species’ habitats, 3) dedicate population and habitat monitoring funds every 5 years for 50 years or annually for 25 years.

Project Team: The project team consists of Correigh Greene (NW Fisheries Science Center), Eric Beamer (Skagit River System Cooperative), Eric Grossman (USGS), John Rybzyk (WSU), Greg Hood (Skagit River System Cooperative), Ed Conner (Skagit City Light), Mara Zimmerman (WA Department of Fish and Wildlife), Jon Paul Shanahan (Sauk/Suiattle Tribe).

Expected Outcomes: Status and trends monitoring for Threatened and Endangered fish species, Species of Concern, invasive species, and recreationally important stocks and their habitats, databases of fish distributions, habitat data to forecast population changes into the future.