River managers often seek to understand habitat availability and quality for riverine organisms within the physical template provided by their landscape. Yet the large amount of natural heterogeneity in landscapes gives rise to stream systems which are highly variable over small spatial scales, potentially complicating site selection for surveying aquatic habitat while simultaneously making a simple, wide-reaching management strategy elusive. This is particularly true in the rugged John Day River Basin of northern Oregon, where efforts as part of the Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program to conduct site-based surveys of physical habitat for endangered steelhead salmon (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are underway. As a complete understanding of the type and distribution of habitat available to these fish would require visits to all streams in the basin (impractical due to its large size), here we develop an approach for classifying channel types which combines remote desktop GIS analyses with rapid field-based stream and landscape surveys. At the core of this method, we build off of the River Styles Framework, an open-ended and process-based approach for classifying streams and informing management decisions. This framework is combined with on-the-ground fluvial audits, which aim to quickly and continuously map sediment dynamics and channel behavior along selected channels. Validation of this classification method is completed by on-the-ground stream surveys using a digital iPad platform and by rapid small aircraft overflights to confirm or refine predictions. We further compare this method with existing channel classification approaches for the region (e.g. Beechie, Montgomery and Buffington). The results of this study will help guide both the refinement of site stratification and selection for salmonid habitat monitoring within the basin, and will be vital in designing and prioritizing restoration and management strategies tailored to the distribution of river styles found across the region.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/joseph_wheaton/85/