Habitat Requirements of Larval and Adult Desert Fishes in Cherry Creek, Arizona: Implications for Water Rights Litigation
USFS, USGS, AZGFD
September 2008 to September 2011
Norman Mercado Silva
Knowledge of flow, temperature and other habitat requirements are critically important for protecting desert fish communities. Recently, mining companies and other interests have been challenging flow requirements for desert streams. As part of team of riparian ecologists, in-stream flow modelers, and fish ecologists we are determining the habitat requirements for fishes in Cherry Creek (Tonto National Forest), Arizona. Using a variety of sampling techniques, our goal is to determine which habitats in the creek are suitable for each fish species in the community. We assess substrate type, water current velocity, depth, and other physical habitat, and water variables, and sample the fish community. We then analyze data to unveil the relationships between a given species and the habitat attributes. This information is being used to develop habitat suitability criteria. These criteria are being used for in-stream flow models of the creek to determine how different water levels affect desert fish communities. The US Forest Service plans to use this information in test cases for aquatic habitat protection in desert streams. A technical report has been published and other reports are in preparation.