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NCER Grantee Research Project Results

Coastal Cutthroat Trout Responses to Forest Harvest: Examining Roles of Physical and Biotic Processes Using an Individual-Based Model and Manipulative Experiments

EPA Grant Number: FP917104
Title: Coastal Cutthroat Trout Responses to Forest Harvest: Examining Roles of Physical and Biotic Processes Using an Individual-Based Model and Manipulative Experiments
Investigators: Penaluna, Brooke Elizabeth
Institution: Oregon State University
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Period: September 1, 2010 through August 31, 2013
Project Amount: $111,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2010)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Ecosystem Services: Aquatic Systems Ecology

Description:

Objective:

My overall research goal is to understand the potential impacts of contemporary forest practices on water quality, water quantity, and in-stream habitat; and how these conditions influence coastal cutthroat trout individuals and emerge as population dynamics. My first research objective is to examine relationships of coastal cutthroat trout to physical and biotic processes in streams under a wide range of conditions using a detailed individual-based simulation model parameterized for coastal cutthroat trout and data from intensively monitored streams in the Trask Watershed Study, a major study of forest practices involving private, state, and federal lands. My second research objective is to evaluate individual- and population-level responses in coastal cutthroat trout to varying levels of a specific physical factor: in-stream cover using manipulative experiments.

Synopsis:

My goal is to understand the potential impacts of contemporary forest practices on water quality, water quantity, and in-stream habitat; and how these conditions influence coastal cutthroat trout individuals and emerge as population dynamics. I will use manipulative experiments, an individual-based simulation model, and field observations. Accordingly, my work will have real on-the-ground implications by influencing major natural resource sectors in the Pacific Northwest: forests and fish.

Approach:

I propose to employ a combination of modeling, experiments, and observations to understand the impacts of contemporary forest practices on coastal cutthroat trout in the context of a new generation of watershed studies currently underway in western Oregon (www.watershedsresearch.org). To achieve Objective 1, I will simulate different forest harvest practices using an individual based model (inSTREAM version 4.2, http://www.humboldt.edu/~ecomodel/instream.htm) which is computer based and so allows for multifaceted combinations of treatments in a prospective perspective that cannot be achieved using any other approach. Since the model performs projections of events in the future based on past data, I will also be considering climate changes since they simultaneously will be occurring. To run the model, I will input existing data from the Trask study watershed located in the northern Oregon Coast Range, which is part of a larger watershed-intensive case study that incorporates pre-harvest and post-harvest observations. To complete my second objective, I am currently conducting large-scale experiments in a semi-natural outdoor setting at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center (OHRC; http://www.dfw.state.or.us/OHRC/) in Alsea, OR. I am examining varying levels of physical habitat structure in the form of in-stream cover on short-term trout responses because it has been suggested that in-stream cover may play a more critical role in the response of fish to forest harvest than previously recognized.

Expected Results:

IBMs coupled together with manipulative experiments prevent confounding factors and in conjunction with field observations may be able to most correctly respond to questions relating to forest harvest on fish. Through this combination of approaches I will be able to address specific hypotheses and predictions about forest harvest impacts on fish by determining specific physical and biotic factors that control fish in streams.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection:

My work will have real on-the-ground implications by influencing forests and fish in the Pacific Northwest through providing a better understanding of the effectiveness of contemporary forest harvest practices and individual and population responses of fish. I also hope to determine the importance of in-stream cover to coastal cutthroat trout, and thereby help managers with habitat management decisions and the implementation of more effective restoration projects, aimed at maintaining coastal cutthroat trout populations. This is especially important as fisheries managers have implemented restoration projects placing large wood and boulders in streams to increase habitat complexity and additional cover for fish.

Supplemental Keywords:

population level, individual level, demographic responses, density,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Forestry, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, eutrophication, model-based analysis, watershed, forest ecosystem, conservation, ecosystem restoration, nontimber forest products, nitrogen, land management

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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