The winter is not a time to monitor the frigid mountain streams that make up the Middle Fork of the John Day River watershed, but work on the Intensively Monitored Watershed continues. The North Fork John Day Watershed Council plays a key role in data collection and management for the IMW working group. See below to learn more about the efforts made during the Fall of 2016. Also be sure to check out the news section of the main IMW web page at: http://www.middleforkimw.org/
Stream Temperature Monitoring
Temperature loggers remained in the streams until Mid-November, continuing to record water temperatures once every hour. Stream temperature is identified as a main limiting factor for improving anadromous fish habitat in most of the John Day River basin, including the area encompassed by the IMW study area. The North Fork John Day Watershed Council is responsible for and deploys 40 HOBO temperature loggers on the Middle Fork and tributaries. These loggers were deployed in April and remained in place until mid-November. Of the 40 loggers deployed, four were not recovered but may be easier to find in the Spring. Data from all loggers was downloaded, organized, and made available for use by the group in December. The IMW partners participating in temperature data collection include the NFJDWC, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, ODFW, and The Nature Conservancy.
NFJDWC staff wrapped up its seasonal discharge (flow) measurements that will be used to normalize logger data this winter. During the 2016 field season, flows were taken a total of seven times. Discharge was measured with a Marsh-McBirney flow meter and a HACH FH 960 Flow meter that was recently acquired by the NFJDWC. After stretching a tape across a pre-established cross-section of the stream, the channel is divided into 20-30 cells which are each measured for cross-section area and water velocity. That data are calculated to determine a total discharge volume of the stream at each site. At this point, loggers from each of the 12 gauging stations have been collected, and the data has been downloaded. These data have been used to create a curve that establishes an accurate representation of the stream discharge each hour of every day for the season in which loggers were in the stream. Each gauging station is equipped with a staff gauge, an established cross-section, and a logger station, consisting of a PVC pipe mounted to a T-post such that the logger remains submerged throughout the season.
As of this writing, the NFJDWC staff has collected, prepared, and sent all macroinvertebrate samples to the lab for processing. Benthic samples were collected from the South Fork (5 sites) and the Middle Fork (10 sites). Drift samples were taken from the Middle fork at 14 locations. Benthic samples are collected by placing a D-frame net on the streambed and cleaning a 1 foot square of substrate immediately in front of each net. Dislodged invertebrates drift into the net and are collected. Samples are collect from 4 riffles at each site, traveling upstream. Drift samples are collected with specialized drift nets that are anchored into the stream channel with re-bar. Flow rates into each net are also recorded. Resultant macroinvertebrate samples have been sent to labs which will perform analysis and report findings to the NFJDWC. Benthic sample results were received by the NFJDWC in December, and are already available to the group. Drift samples are expected in early February of 2017.
The NFJDWC staff provided various maps and GIS information to requesting parties, as well as worked with the public on data requests and general outreach. In early January, temperature logger data will be checked for errors and entered into the database. NFJDWC will work in conjunction with ODFW to update and input temperature data into the Access database. By working with The Freshwater Trust, the NFJDWC has saved valuable time and funds to develop rating curves for each of the 12 discharge sites. These data are also available to the group at this time.
The North Fork John Day Watershed Council’s intensive monitoring efforts on the Middle Fork of the John Day River have collected an invasive species, previously un-recorded in eastern Oregon or the John Day River system. The “European ear snail” was collected by Project Coordinator, Valeen Madden on September 24, 2014 in regular monitoring activities. The snail was collected in a drift net. Drift nets are set in the river’s current for a period of at least 6 hours to collect insects and crustaceans, commonly referred to as “macro-invertebrates.” The invertebrates collected are then sent to a lab for careful identification and evaluation. The lab providing the positive identification of this sample was Rithron Laboratories of Missoula, MT.
European ear snails (Radix auricularia) are in the family of lymnaeid snails which are scrapers and gatherers. They are native to both Europe and Asia. The species generally grow to about 15 mm in height and 13 mm in width. The mantle has dark spots along its edge and 4 to 5 whorls in the shell. The snails generally prefer fresh water lakes and slow moving rivers. Ear snails feed on detritus, algae, and sand. Their common name is derived from the “ear” shaped shell in which they live.
It is important to recognize that this particular snail is not considered a “noxious” species, only an invasive species. That indicates that the snail is exotic to North America, and it is increasing its population density, but it is not outcompeting or having any detrimental affect on native species in the lakes and rivers where it is found. The nearest prior discovery to the west was in Lake Billy Chinook in central Oregon and to the east in Idaho’s Snake River and Owyhee drainages. Significant populations are appearing in southwestern Oregon.
The NFJDWC monitoring program takes place in association with the Intensively Monitored Watershed, supported by Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board with NOAA funds. The Intensively Monitored Watershed is a working group of participants from universities, agencies, and non-profit organizations whose partners together collect copious information about the health of the Middle Fork and its response to restoration activities. Other ongoing research includes: water temperatures, flow data, fish counts, geomorphic channel patterns, and ground water studies.
The Watershed Council will seek additional funding to search up and downstream from the capture site to determine the level of prevalence of the population. Additional investigation by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Invasive species coordinator will seek to determine the source of the new species. Elaine Eisenbraun, Executive Director of the Watershed Council, stated, “Rivers are such a dynamic element of our environment. It is important to keep an eye on the changes that take place naturally and as a result of human activity. Our staff is working diligently to gather relevant information about the health and constant changes in the waterways that we monitor. It is a tribute to the diligent work of our monitoring staff that their efforts revealed a critical change in the system biota.”
For more information about the European ear snail, visit: http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=1012
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