Identification of Habitat Use of Adult Fishes in Wilderness Tributaries to the Verde River, Arizona at Base Flow
Conserving the natural condition of wilderness areas, including riparian areas and their associated fish communities fall under the responsibilities of the National Wilderness Preservation System. As a result of these protections, tributaries located in these Wilderness areas contain high quality habitat to support native species. However, the increase of human populations in the state of Arizona have escalated demands on water resources. Propositions such as reservoirs for water catchment and flood harvesting of high flows have been suggested as extra sources of water for consumption. If natural flows are to be protected in these unique areas, a clear understanding of the critical habitat needs of native species is needed. As such, this study intends to examine the critical habitat needs of the fish species in these tributaries. Data collection is occurring in Sycamore Creek, Wet Beaver Creek, West Clear Creek, and West Fork Oak Creek, Arizona. These four streams are major tributaries to the Verde River. Each stream is partially contained within wilderness areas which defines the borders of the study. Fish species present in these streams include the native Desert Sucker Catostomus clarki, Sonora Sucker Catostomus insignis, Roundtail Chub Gila robusta, and Longfin Dace Agosia chrysogaster. Non-native fish include Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides, Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieui, Redeye Bass Micropterus coosae, and their hybrids, Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, Brown Trout Salmo trutta and Yellow Bullhead Ameiurus natalis. Collection of habitat use and availability data in all streams using snorkeling and electrofishing methods, and common instream flow measures started during the 2021 baseflow season. Surveys will concentrate on baseflow conditions (commonly the most stressful time of year), the use of macrohabitat (run, riffle, pool) and the distribution of species across the length of these streams. Data collection was started in the summer of 2021, and a publication is planned from these results.