Effects of water use on fish biodiversity: a decision-support framework

Author(s): Cartwright, J.; Wolfe, B.

Despite increasing awareness of the importance of streamflow variability to fish communities and efforts to create regional standards for environmental flows, methods are lacking that explicitly translate water-use decisions into predicted ecological outcomes. The U.S. Geological Survey has developed ecological limit functions in the Tennessee River basin relating hydrologic departure from reference conditions to species richness for key fish groups based on trophic and habitat characteristics. These ecological limit functions have been incorporated into a hydrologic accounting framework to allow water-resource managers to examine the consequences for fish biodiversity of water-use decisions, such as withdrawals for municipal or agricultural use. This approach allows various management scenarios to be compared, with the goal of maintaining ecological health of streams and conserving fish biodiversity while optimizing water availability for human use.

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