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HabRate: a literature and stream survey based habitat rating model

Jennifer L. Burke, Kim K. Jones, and Jeffrey M. Dambacher

Burke, J. L, K. K. Jones, and J. M. Dambacher.  2010.  Habrate: A Limiting Factors Model for Assessing Stream Habitat Quality for Salmon and Steelhead in the Deschutes River Basin.  Information Report 2010-03, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Corvallis.

Fishery managers are commonly tasked with the basic question “Will the contemporary habitat above a barrier support the fish populations that historically resided in the watershed?” Managers in central Oregon were confronted with that question in an effort to reestablish fish populations in 375 kilometers of stream above the Round Butte-Pelton Dam complex (Rkm 161) on the Deschutes River. Stream surveys had been conducted in most of the available stream habitat, but had not been synthesized in a form that allowed managers to view the quality and complexity of stream habitat in an easily-understandable fashion. In response, we developed a limiting factors model (HabRate) that assessed the potential quality of stream habitat using stream survey data for each juvenile life stage of salmon and steelhead. The model was developed for a specific application to the middle Deschutes River basin in Oregon, but was intended for general application to Pacific Northwest basins. To paramatize the model, we summarized available literature on salmonid habitat requirements. Habitat criteria were developed for discrete life history stages (i.e. spawning, egg survival, emergence, summer rearing, and winter rearing) and used to rate the quality of stream reaches as poor, fair, or good, based on attributes relating to stream substrate, habitat unit type, cover, gradient, temperature, and flow. Reach level summaries of stream habitat data were entered into MS Excel, and interpreted by a series of algorithms to provide a limiting factor assessment of potential egg-to-fry and fry-to-parr survival for each reach. Model output lists habitat quality by species and life stage for each reach of stream. The model is a decision making tool that is intended to provide a qualitative assessment of the habitat potential of stream reaches within a basin context. Design criteria for the model were simplicity, flexibility, and transparency. While HabRate was based on our interpretations of the published literature, specific criteria for habitat quality were structured to be easily adjusted where interpretations differ from ours. Information not common to standard stream survey designs, such as seasonal flow or temperature extremes can be included as input from professional judgment. The results were integrated into a GIS coverage coupled with the stream network and habitat data to provide a comprehensive map-based perspective of habitat quality in a watershed.

Design criteria for the model were 1) simplicity and 2) flexibility. It attempts to work only from published literature, and rating values for high, medium, and low can be easily changed. Information not found in standard stream surveys, such as seasonal flow or temperature limitations can be included based on professional judgment.

To download HabRate files, please contact Charlie Stein.

  -  HabRate for Basin Habitat Data
  -  HabRate for Oregon Plan Habitat Data

    - Includes MS Excel spreadsheet with algorithms

    - MS Access database with example data and queries to create specific metrics

    - Instructions on how to use queries developed in the MS Access database


Project contact:
Charlie Stein