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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Distribution and abundance of nearshore aquatic habitat, Fraser River, British Columbia Perkins, Ashley

Abstract

Physical habitat for instream biota derives from a combination of stream system structural and hydraulic phenomena. Consequently, the quantity and quality of physical habitat is dynamic both over time and in space along the river, laterally, longitudinally and vertically. Its characterization through stream assessment and classification leads to a better understanding of factors that determine and limit habitat extent and quality. This thesis investigates the effects of space and time on nearshore aquatic habitat in the gravel reach of Fraser River, British Columbia by employing a large river, stage-adaptive habitat classification system. The distribution and abundance of habitat are spatially quantified at the reach scale (32 km), and temporally quantified through a period of about 60 years at several adjacent gravel bars (7 km), and at approximately 500 m3 s-1 increments in discharge during the declining limb of the flood hydrograph at two well-developed gravel bars. Of the ten habitat types evaluated, the bar edge habitat type is most abundant by length and number of units. However, its relative importance is reduced when weighted by fish-habitat association characteristics. Preferred habitat types (channel nook, eddy pool and open nook) are frequent and available to aquatic organisms, and most common at well-developed bars and in zones of equilibrium long-term sedimentation. Preferred habitat was at a maximum 30 years ago when major new bars developed and the thalweg shifted, effectively increasing the amount of bar shoreline and nearshore habitat. This increase is due to substantial change in river planform morphology following a 30-year period of large annual floods. However, amounts of habitat did not increase exclusively during periods of higher than average flows, or decrease exclusively during periods of lower than average flows. Instead, habitat abundance response to flow may occur with a two- or three-year lag. Short term changes in stage are critical to amount of preferred habitat. Optimal discharge for maximum preferred habitat vailability is in the range of approximately 2500 m3 s-1 to 4000 m3 s-1, which approximates long term mean flow. As flow increases, the proportion of preferred habitat compared with total bar shoreline decreases. Comparison with the 2006 flow duration curve shows that 15 – 30 % of discharges are optimal for maximum fish density and biomass. These discharges occurred during April 27 to May 17 and July 14 to August 7, 2006.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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