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Response of a Brook Trout Population and Instream Habitat to a Catastrophic Flood and Debris Flow


Criag N. Roghair
C. Andrew Dolloff
Martin K. Underwood



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Southern Research Station


Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 131:718-730, 2002


In June 1995, a massive flood and debris flow impacted fish and habitat along the lower 1.9 km of the Staunton River, a headwater stream located in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. In the area affected by debris flow, the stream bed was scoured and new substrate materials were deposited, trees were removed from a 30-m-wide band in the riparian area, and all fish were eliminated. In the area that was unaffected by debris flow, habitat was moderately altered by the flood and fish populations persisted at decreased densities. Basinwide fish population and habitat surveys provided data to compare (1) the pre- and postevent population densities of brook trout Salvelinus fonrinalis and instream habitat conditions and (2) postevent population density, brook trout growth, and instream habitat in the debris-flow-affected and unaffected areas. By June 1998, brook trout had recolonized the entire debris-flow-affected area, and population density exceeded preevent levels. Brook trout growth was significantly greater in the debris-flow-affected area than in the unaffected area through fall 1998, but it was not significantly greater in 1999. Population density appeared to have a negative influence on fish growth. A 1995 postevent habitat survey revealed increases in the number of pools and riffles and substrate size and decreases in pool and riffle surface area and depth. By 1999, the total number, surface area, and depth of pools and riffles had returned to near preevent levels and substrate size had decreased. Between 1995 and 1999, the amount of large woody debris increased in the debris-flow-unaffected area, where riparian trees had remained intact, and decreased in the affected area, where riparian trees had been eliminated. A number of factors, including a relatively intact watershed and nearby source populations, allowed the Staunton River to quickly respond to this dramatic natural event. Given the proper conditions for recovery, such events are less catastrophic than activities that lead to chronic stream degradation.


Roghair, Criag N.; Dolloff, C. Andrew; Underwood, Martin K. 2002. Response of a Brook Trout Population and Instream Habitat to a Catastrophic Flood and Debris Flow. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 131:718-730, 2002

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