IAB Research Project Description

Expenditures for Completing the Wenatchee Subbasin Headwater Stream Monitoring Program: 2007-2008

Low-order streams comprise more than 80% of drainage networks, yet very little is known about the role they play in affecting downstream habitats and communities. We found that small fishless streams can be important energy sources for downstream food webs in salmonid ecosystems in southeastern Alaska, transporting invertebrates and organic material produced in headwaters environments to habitats lower in the drainage that contain fish. This work represents an opportunity to test and develop a novel, innovative approach for watershed assessment by directly monitoring the productivity of food webs, and indirectly all the cumulative processes and factors (e.g., organic matter load and dynamics, inorganic sediment dynamics, flow regime, light, allochthonous inputs, water temperature, land-use, etc.) that drive it. It is important to emphasize that this work focuses on food web productivity of low order streams as a means for testing and developing a new tool for monitoring watershed condition and restoration effectiveness. This approach is novel for three reasons: (i) food web monitoring gets right to the bottom line and integrates the stressors, processes, and conditions that ultimately drive these ecosystems; (ii) it directly links headwater condition and downstream fish condition; (iii) these low order watersheds comprise over 80% of typical drainage networks, therefore in aggregation they have great potential to influence salmonid habitats downstream; and (iv) monitoring in these low order watersheds has been historically ignored. Objectives: 1.Develop and test methods for monitoring subcatchment and stream condition of low-order drainages. 2.Determine the effects of land-use and vegetation cover on biological productivity of headwater subcatchments. 3.Link land use, vegetation cover, and watershed condition of fishless subcatchments to fish communities in downstream habitats.

Project Funding

Bonneville Power Authority
1 Apr 2007 – 1 Apr 2008
IAB Proposal #07-079
UAF Grant #G4052
IAB Project #147

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Communications/Web Manager
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907.474.7412