Linking hydroclimate to fish phenology and habitat use with ichthyographs

TitleLinking hydroclimate to fish phenology and habitat use with ichthyographs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsFlitcroft R, Lewis SL, Arismendi I, LovellFord R, Santelmann M, Safeeq M, Grant, Gordon E
JournalPLoS ONE

Streamflow and water temperature (hydroclimate) influence the life histories of aquatic biota. The relationship between streamflow and temperature varies with climate, hydrogeomorphic setting, and season. Life histories of native fishes reflect, in part, their adaptation to regional hydroclimate (flow and water temperature), local habitats, and natural disturbance regimes, all of which may be affected by water management. Alterations to natural hydroclimates, such as those caused by river regulation or climate change, can modify the suitability and variety of in-stream habitat for fishes throughout the year. Here, we present the ichthyograph, a new empirically-based graphical tool to help visualize relationships between hydroclimate and fish phenology. Generally, this graphical tool can be used to display a variety of phenotypic traits. We used long-term data sets of daily fish passage to examine linkages between hydroclimate and the expression of life-history phenology by native fishes. The ichthyograph may be used to characterize the environmental phenology for fishes across multiple spatio-temporal domains. We illustrate the ichthyograph in two applications to visualize: 1) river use for the community of fishes at a specific location; and 2) stream conditions at multiple locations within the river network for one species at different life-history stages. The novel, yet simple, ichthyograph offers a flexible framework to enable transformations in thinking regarding relationships between hydroclimate and aquatic species across space and time. The potential broad application of this innovative tool promotes synergism between assessments of physical characteristics and the biological needs of aquatic species.