We work to understand habitat conditions now so that we can implement targeted, high-impact restoration for the future.
For over 20 years the Coos Watershed Association (CoosWA) has worked to help landowners and policy-makers determine how to best manage and restore natural resources in the Coos watershed. In order to make this possible and ensure the success of both current and future restoration projects we have developed multiple monitoring efforts to track habitat throughout the watershed. Programs such as the aquatic inventory surveys play a vital role in helping our restoration project managers prioritize which areas within the watershed are most in need of restoration.
The aquatic inventory surveys conducted by the Coos Watershed Association are quantitative assessments of habitat characteristics in wadeable streams in the Coos Basin. CoosWA staff has been collecting aquatic habitat data for over two decades and have surveyed roughly 350 miles of streams utilized by anadromous fish such as Coho salmon and cutthroat trout.
Aquatic inventory surveys are generally conducted from June 1st – October 1st. Once significant rains begin and streams and rivers are no longer at summer base flows, surveyors are forced to stop their data collection efforts until the following summer field season. Survey methods are consistent with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife protocols in order for data to be shared across organizations. Examples of data collected include but are not limited to: valley width, channel type, slope, terrace height and width, sinuosity, active channel width, depth, substrate, and bank erosion. Using these data, streams can then be identified as one of the types of stream described by Rosgen (1985) or they may be matched to the parameters of previously surveyed streams (Figure 1). The process of conducting an aquatic habitat survey involves collection of general information from maps and other sources as well as direct observation of stream characteristics in the field.
Click here to view the Aquatic Inventory Project Training Manual that guides our aquatic survey work.
Diagram displaying metrics used by aquatic habitat surveyors to characterize streams
Beginning in the early 2000s Coos Watershed Association monitoring staff began conducting basin level surveys of aquatic habitat. These surveys provide a more detailed assessment of anadromous fish habitat within a region than surveys conducted as part of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds (1997) which require less extensive coverage. Basin level surveying involves describing stream characteristics from headwaters to outlet in order to provide a complete data set that may be used for future restoration prioritization.
Aquatic inventory surveys provide valuable, ground-truthed data that allow the Coos Watershed Association and partner organizations to develop Restoration Action Plans (RAP) for specific regions throughout the watershed. Data from these surveys are then used in conjunction with multiple other variables, such as data from USFS forest road inventories, to provide a holistic view of restoration needs within the watershed. In addition to utilizing data for restoration projects through the Coos Watershed Association, we also share all data collected through aquatic inventory surveys with the public via the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Data Clearinghouse. Through monitoring efforts like these, we help ensure that restoration projects in the Coos watershed are rooted in solid science and targeted to maximize positive impact.