Measured fish-habitat relationships to drive restoration prioritization

Year: 2022
Presenter/s: Kevin See
Symposium Session: 2022 - 07 Putting the Fish into Fish Habitat Restoration
Topics covered: fish-salmon, fish-steelhead, modeling, and monitoring


Estimating habitat capacity is an effective way to evaluate deficits, prioritize watersheds, and focus restoration efforts based on watershed, location, and life stage specific capacity deficits. We developed a quantile random forest (QRF) model to estimate habitat capacity based on measured fish-habitat data and relationships. We used empirically-based habitat capacity deficits from that model, in combination with ESA de-listing criteria, to prioritize habitat restoration efforts among populations of spring/summer Chinook salmon at the scale of a Major Population Group. Within watersheds, we leveraged the same fish-habitat relationships to identify the types and locations of habitat restoration most likely to reduce deficits in carrying capacity based on specific life stages. This process can be used to decrease long-term effectiveness monitoring costs and support strategic decisions about the distribution of habitat restoration effort.