Habitat Suitability Criteria Development for Fishes of the Middle Verde River (Wild and Scenic Section), Arizona
Streams of the southwestern United States contain some of the most unique and endangered fish species on the planet. Research has been conducted on defining what physical habitat, i.e., habitat suitability criteria (HSC), is suitable for various Arizona fishes; however, most of this work has focused on the relationship of fish presence with flow, depth, and substrate habitat. Less is known about the relationship of other factors, such as overhead cover, instream cover, riparian vegetation, channel morphology, and water temperature to desert fish species presence. Furthermore, fish habitat use can vary among streams. It has long been known that fish can partition themselves in different habitats, depending on the other species present. Therefore, examining how preferred habitat varies with the presence of other species gives a clearer answer as to how fish distribution is shaped under a variety of conditions. The goal of this project is to identify specific physical and biological habitat needs of select fish species that will allow for improved habitat management, provide information to aid in protection of in-stream flows, and contribute to recovery of endangered and sensitive native fish species. The focus of this project was to collect information on habitat usage of fishes in the Wild and Scenic section of the middle Verde River. This information is being combined with that from a co-occurring project on habitat suitability criteria being conducted across several Arizona rivers and streams in the development of river specific and generalized habitat suitability criteria. Data from this study has been collected, three theses were published, and results are being prepared for publication.