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Great Lakes Aquatic Gap Project

WI Aquatic Gap Stakeholders Meeting - March 5, 2003, Middleton, WI


USGS: Jana Stewart, Barb Scudder, Michelle Lutz, Matt Diebel, Morgan Schneider, and Krista Stensvold

WDNR: Steve Galarneau, Joanna Griffin, Cindy Koperski, Lisie Kitchel, Mike Miller, John Lyons, Janel Pike, Chris Smith, Bill Smith, Mike Sorge, Li Wang

US Forest Service: Ted Geier, Dale Higgins, Sue Reinecke, Nick Schmal

Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission: Tom Slawski

UW- Madison: Phil Emmling


Overview (Presenter - Jana Stewart, USGS): The meeting began with an overview of the Great Lakes (GL) Aquatic Gap project. The project is funded by the USGS BRD, National Gap Analysis Program. The goals of the project are to: 1) map species distributions and diversity of fish and other aquatic species and their habitats, 2) to identify the gaps in conservation of these species and associated habitats. GAP projects work by developing institutional cooperation and partnerships at the local, State, and Regional level, in order to coordinate with existing work and take advantage of local expertise. The GL Aquatic Gap project includes two components, aquatic gap for riverine systems and a coastal pilot. Projects for riverine systems will be conducted in the 8 states that comprise the US portion of the Great Lakes watershed and include IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, PA, NY, WI. A coastal pilot is focusing on method development for habitat classification for nearshore coastal systems (pilot areas - Lake Ontario and Erie). The riverine approach will include: 1) development of a Valley Segment Type (VST) classification using 1:100k National Hydrography Data (NHD), 2) development of a fish database using the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) coding, 3) organization of data in centralized regional Oracle database to be housed at the USGS Great Lakes Science Center, 4) mapping known and predicted occurrence and distribution of fish and other aquatic species for streams. 5) Gap analysis of fish and selected biota. The results may be used by scientists, policy makers, and resource managers to: 1) map species distributions, 2) identify gaps in data and conservation of species, 3) develop biomonitoring networks, 4) model predicted species distributions, and 5) aid in development of management strategies and/or policy. The timeline for completion of aquatic gap for riverine systems is: OH (2004); MI, NY, WI (2006); MN (2007); IL, IN, PA (2008); for the coastal pilot is 2006.

Valley Segment Classification (Presenters - Jana Stewart, USGS and Lizhu Wang, WDNR): Jana Stewart and Li Wang described the development of a VST classification in Wisconsin. The USGS, WDNR, Michigan Institute of Fisheries Research (IFR), and Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) are working together to meet the common goal of developing an ecological stream classification linked to aquatic species distributions. The USGS will use these results to conduct gap analysis, while the WDNR will use the results to assess fisheries potential and stream impairment and as tools for baseline monitoring. The WDNR is also working with the States of MI and IL as part of an US EPA Star Grant and will use the ecological stream classification to conduct landscape modeling for ecological status and risk assessment. An EPA Star Grant web page is being developed and will be a linked to the WI GAP web page, when it becomes public.

Jana briefly discussed methods for the VST classification. VST methods are based on the approach used by IFR, The Nature Conservancy, and the Missouri and Ohio Aquatic Gap projects. Refinements are being made to existing methods to calculate and store attributes for 3 levels, channel, riparian buffer, and catchment. Interval and ratio data will be stored, where possible and hydrogeomorphic data will be stored as point and linear events on stream routes. All refinements are being developed and coordinated with Great Lakes Aquatic Gap and the EPA Star Grant states. Questions: 1) Has channelization been examined/included in the VST? Channelization is not considered (although sinuosity is one variable that is included), because the gap approach looks at biological potential, without human disturbance. However, a goal of the US EPA Star Grant is to look at impairment and ecological risk assessment. 2) Dale Higgins asked what will be used for land use - i.e. WISCLAND? Jana said they would like to use the best available data for Wisconsin, however, will also need to coordinate with the other Great Lakes Aquatic Gap projects. WISCLAND arose out of the Upper Midwest Terrestrial Gap project and has a very robust accuracy assessment. The other option would be to use the National Land Cover Data (NLCD). As long as the categories can be cross-walked, we should be able to use either, and prefer to use the data with the best accuracy.

The VST is being developed based on the 1:100,000 National Hydrography Data (NHD). We have also been working on developing a VST for the 1:24,000 WDNR hydrography data, however, must first satisfy the needs for both the Great Lake Aquatic Gap and US EPA Star Grant projects. The WDNR would like to see the development of a 1:24,000 VST because many of the first order streams in Wisconsin are not captured on NHD. Methods to conflate features between the 1:24K and 1:100Khydrography have been explored, however, final conclusions have not been reached. Janel commented that the early efforts she was aware of to conflate from 1:24K to 100K were unsuccessful. Our efforts are now focusing on the NHD cleanup by mid-May, and we hope to complete catchment processing by mid-Sept. To date, progress cleaning up the 1:24k hydrography have included connecting disconnected stream segments, calculating Strahler stream order and calculating Shreve Link and Dlink. Most of these steps have been completed, however, Strahler and Shreve calculations still need to be reviewed and verified.

Li Wang is working on developing temperature and flow models for WI streams to predict stream temperature and baseflow. Li said WDNR has collected fish, stream temp, flow, and habitat data from 130 gaged stations, plus another 200 sites with only fish and flow. The streamflow modeling stations are scattered throughout the State with most concentrated in the SE part of WI. A Darcy layer is being developed as part of this effort to describe the potential for gw flow into the streams. It is based on surficial geology, slope, and other variables and indicates how much ground water can come into the stream. The actual amount of groundwater coming into the stream may be different than the potential.

While this years efforts are focused on developing the VST classifcation, next years objectives will be to finalize the VST, use cluster analysis to determine unique valley segments, develop primary assessment units (i.e. Ecological Drainage Units or EDUs), link the fish database to the valley segments in streams, and to prepare fish species distribution maps for expert review.

WI Aquatic GAP Database (Presenters - Barb Scudder and Morgan Schneider, USGS):
Barb Scudder and Morgan Schneider presented information about the development of a WI Aquatic Gap biology database. This year efforts have been focused on: 1) acquiring fish data, 2) summarizing sources of other data for other aquatic biota, 3) assisting with updates to the WDNR Biology Database, 4) determining geo-referenced locations for sampling sites in the WDNR Historical Database, 5) assisting with the design of a centralized Regional Aquatic Biology database, 6) formatting and loading data into a WI Aquatic Gap database. A Central Aquatic Gap Biology database is being developed by and housed at the USGS Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor, MI. Initially, the central database will serve data only to GL Gap projects. Eventually the database will be shared with the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII). The WI Aquatic Gap Biology database will be developed based on the same database star schema as the central database, so data can be easily loaded. The database will initially store only fish data, however, other biota may be added in the future. Database fields will include information that describes the sample location, effort, and catch. Additional tables will be included in the database to describe the VST segments and habitat affinity. Current sources of fish data include the WDNR Biology Database, WDNR Historical Database, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Oneida Tribe of Indians, Milwaukee Public Museum, University of WI, University of Michigan, and University of Minnesota, some of which have already been acquired. Sources of other aquatic biota may be acquired in the future and include benthic invertebrates (WDNR, USFS, USGS, Oneida Tribe of Indians, and UW Stevens Point), and freshwater mussels (WDNR, USFS, and Milwaukee Public Museum). All data sets will be evaluated to determine if they are appropriate to meet the needs of the Aquatic Gap project. The WDNR Biology Database will be the largest single source of fish data and includes data for more than 15,000 fish sampling sites collected as far back as 1870, with 28 percent of the samples collected from 1980 - 2000 and 52 percent from 1970 - 1980. Data will be loaded into the WI Aquatic Gap Biology database by July 2003, at which time an evaluation will be made to determine if additional data are needed for certain areas of the State. Next years plans include 1) finalize development of the fish database, 2) review and summarize literature related to habitat suitability, 3) prepare fish species distribution maps and distribute for expert review, 4) link fish sampling locations to the VST using unique identifiers for stream reaches, 5) continue identifying additional data sources for other aquatic biota.

Question: 1) Will we be looking at time trends? We are mapping existing land use with fish data that may be 40-50 yrs old. GAP assesses biological potential, without the influence of disturbance, however the Star grant work will be looking at impairment. Gap will conduct modeling to predict where species should be found; Li stated that once the model is developed, then one can look at the land use information (ie. urban, agriculture, etc.) in order to understand impairment. 2) John Lyons asked about what sort of effort are we putting into making sure that the fish species are correct (ie. need quality rather than quantity)? Our primary source of fish data is the WDNR Biology Database, and we have additional data from the WDNR Historical fish database (Doug Beard), USFS, USFWS (Oneida), and museums. Some data from UW was already in WDNR Biology Database. We haven't chased down other datasets due to concerns about time/benefit and quality. John felt comfortable with IDs from museum collections. He also stated that Don Fago didn't accept certain records for the Master Fish File (now part of the WDNR Biology Database) due to concerns over misidentification of some fish. John suggests that this is more a question for the non-game species. He said we should be careful about some non-game species IDs in the WNDR Biology Database and the Historical Database. We need to find a way to deal with this issue, (i.e. consult with John and flag hard-to-ID species or determine the most valid data sources based on collectors codes (See Fago Report (1988). This could be a large task - we had thought IDs in the WDNR Biology Database were generally accurate, but will attempt to address, first by further discussing with John Lyons.

Fishes of Wisconsin Revision/Rewrite (Presenter - John Lyons, WDNR): Hoy (1883) made first WI list of 144 species. Greene (1935) documented 174 species from the 1920's but many no longer occur in WI. Greene's book had nothing on ID, life history, or biology - just distribution (his PhD thesis). Becker (1983;Professor of Biology at UWSP) documented 157 species: 146 native and 11 established non-native). Becker took 25 years to complete the book and it was not finished until after he retired. It stands as a tremendous work. Unfortunately, the data don't extend beyond about 1978 (so about 25 years old now) and many changes have taken place in WI. Lyons, et al (2000) put out a small book to update Becker's book but it was meant as a companion to Becker's Fishes of WI and a progress report - not truly a revision or rewrite of Becker. Lyons et al. (2000) listed 147 natives, 15, established non-natives, and 19 transient non-natives. The overlap between John's work and the WI Aquatic Gap project is the need to prepare accurate distribution maps of species and summarize distributional data. The plan is to completely rewrite and update species accounts from Becker. There have been taxonomic changes since Becker, new native species that were previously unrecognized, new non-natives, and much more data collected. John wants to link maps electronically to the databases. Hopefully, we can help each other and come up with a common product. John showed an example of the type of map he envisioned and his hope that a geo-referenced database would be linked to this. He'd like people to have something similar to an ArcView map with a variety of options available for plotting so one could overlay and compare maps. Chris mentioned a type of Arc software that is freeware, ArcExplorer. John would like to see maps that would show changes from Becker's original work, i.e. pre- and post-1983 for a particular species. John envisions a dynamic map linked to a geo-referenced database, with information coded by map symbol (ie. pre 1983, post 1983, voucher, etc.) and the capability to zoom in on certain points and get a table of associated information. Ohio Aquatic GAP has created web maps that are static. Question: Will this be all electronic or hardbound? Not sure but even if hardbound, he would include CD. If web based, then could download periodic updates. Similar to GAP, John has to wrestle with whether data is worth the effort to track down and computerize. He is also working on a web-based fish identification system, and has spent time making up to 20-25 photos of each species of fish - anything relevant to identification. There will be an interactive photographic key of all life stages and a searchable bibliography. He showed current website: or

USFS Ecological Classification for Streams (Presenter - Dale Higgins, USFS): The USFS completed an ecological classification of stream segments in the Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forests in WI. Their basic hypothesis was that biota would be more consistent than geomorphic characteristics for developing an ecological stream classification. They looked at valley segment and reach type scales. They sampled 150 segments trying to cover the range of small to large; warm to cold; and acidic to alkaline as representative of streams in the Nicolet and Chequamegon Forests. Fish samples were collected mostly by means of electrofishing (for 30 channel widths or 100m, whichever was longer). They aimed to collect one sample per segment: 149 segments with fish and mussels. Then they looked at data using multivariate techniques to assess where species distributions start to change and where could one draw the thresholds or breaks. They did some lumping of species that had similar distributions (i.e. sunfishes were lumped). Significant relations were found between occurrence of fish and mussels for bankfull width, alkalinity, and temperature. The combination of width, alkalinity, and temperature produced 27 possible unique combinations to describe different stream types, however, some of these combinations were not observed in their forest settings: three letter code for different stream types - NMW for width, ASL for alkalinity, and COW for temperature. Example, NAC = narrow/alkaline/cold is a prime trout stream type. Question: Why bankfull width and not wetted width? Bankfull width was chosen since it was expected to be more consistent year-to-year than wetted width, which could vary depending on when sampled. Question: Will insect data be analyzed? Data are available only for Chequamegon and is a smaller sample size, however no significant relations were found for insects. They have another 20 samples not yet utilized. Most of streams in forest have been mapped; a publication from this is in progress. The goal was to refine what types of streams they had, where they were, and what was there so they could better manage these streams. They wanted to see if some difference or whether some types could be lumped. Question: How can the work the USFS has done here help with the GAP effort? Jana - Gap will be mapping aquatic habitats at a coarser scale than the VST. During the next year, Gap will be developing primary assessment units called Ecological Drainage Units (EDUs). They will use the biological data and VSTs constrained by hydrologic units to help define EDUs. The EDUs may include a number of VSTs in streams. USFS results may provide Gap with some ideas of how VSTs should be lumped in areas of northern WI. Both USFS and gap are looking at similar sized segments (confluence to confluence).

NatureServe (Presenter - Jana Stewart for Roy Weitzell): Jana provided a brief overview of Regional Aquatic Conservation Planning in the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB), using slides provided by Roy Weitzell (NatureServe). There are two main goals of the UMRB Assessment 1) to create a comprehensive conservation plan for the UMRB 2) to identify the top 50 or so highest priority conservation areas across the basin. The study area covers the Upper Mississippi river basin to the mouth of the Missouri, but does not include the Missouri River basin. There are 5 major steps in the UMRB assessment: 1) build an aquatic biological database (includes 65 different biological data sets for fish, mussels, and benthic invertebrates), 2) classify and map the diversity and distribution of aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems, 3) classify biological assemblages of species within a basin, 4) identify overall areas of biodiversity significance, and designate the top 50 priority sites for conservation, and 5) generate a GIS database with associated biological and environmental information to support conservation, restoration, and management efforts. The results and products of this effort will provide an ecologically-based framework to: 1) establish sampling/monitoring strategies, 2) conduct informed bioassessments, 3) establish detailed reference conditions and IBIs, 4) define biological potential and restoration goals and measure success, and 5) measure local and regional patterns in natural and impacted aquatic ecosystems. Jana was not able to cover the UMRB in detail, however, suggested that perhaps Roy Weitzell could attend a future Aquatic Gap stakeholders meeting and present his results.

Web site (Presenter - Krista Stensvold): Krista Stensvold has developed a WI Aquatic Gap web page that provides information about the Wisconsin Aquatic Gap project, including goals and objectives, meetings (agendas, meeting minutes, presentations), and contains links to other Aquatic Gap and cooperator web pages. Krista would like stakeholders to provide feedback related to Web page content, appearance, other important links, or any ideas or suggestions. The web page will be linked from the Great Lakes Aquatic Gap web page and can be found at: http://wi.water.usgs.gov/gap/index.htm
Question: John Lyons asked if we envisioned serving the products/maps to the public via the web site? Jana stated that the products would be served on CD ROM and with some products possibly served on the Web. The Great Lake Science Center may also serve some data from their web site.

Future plans (Discussion lead by Jana Stewart): The group felt that current meeting format worked well. Jana suggested that we could tie a future meeting in with a WI AFS meeting or other related meeting. More frequent gap meetings will be held with stakeholder subgroups to discuss specific topics. The next meeting of the entire stakeholders group will be scheduled for next fall, probably in October 2003. At that meeting we will provide a WI Aquatic Gap status report, ask stakeholders to provide feedback on our project, determine areas where we need to coordinate with other projects, and will invite a couple of speakers that may be involved in related work (ie. possibly Roy Weitzell from Natureserve to present Aquatic Conservation Planning in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. Any other suggestions would be appreciated


U.S. Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey
For information regarding the Wisconsin Aquatic GAP Project please contact Jana Stewart, jsstewar@usgs.gov.
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Page was created on December 17, 2002
Page was last modified on September 5, 2008
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