North American Journal of Fisheries Management
American Fisheries Society
Stream drying, especially in the western U.S., is becoming more common as climate warms and precipitation patterns become less predictable; consequently, fisheries managers need to prioritize conservation efforts where water (and fish) will persist in the future. Yellow Creek in the Upper Bear River watershed (Utah and Wyoming) contains one of the largest remaining populations of Northern Leatherside Chub (NLC) Lepidomeda copei, an imperiled fish. Lower reaches are drying during summer months, partly due to water withdrawals, thus reducing NLC populations and relegating remaining fish to isolated pools until water returns. This study utilized an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to capture high resolution and spatially explicit imagery over 19 km of Yellow Creek in a few weeks during late August when water is the most limiting to fish. Through imagery and subsequent GIS analysis, we identified 405 potential NLC refuge pool habitats, which were previously unknown, and determined their location, size, and spatial distribution thereby helping managers prioritize stream reaches for native fish conservation and restoration. While the cost of UAV flights was estimated to be 2.5 times higher than on-the-ground surveys in 2016, UAV technology continues to become more cost effective and unlike traditional surveys, provides high resolution and spatially referenced data.
Thompson, P.D., Vasquez, E.A., Gowing, I., Edgar, T., Neville, A. and Jones, A. (2021), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology Proves an Effective and Efficient Technique for Identifying Critical Native Fish Habitat. North Am J Fish Manage. https://doi.org/10.1002/nafm.10567
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