Assessment of brown trout habitat suitability in the Jucar River Basin (SPAIN): Comparison of data-driven approaches with fuzzy-logic models and univariate suitability curves

Autores UPV


The implementation of the Water Framework Directive implies the determination of an environmental flow (E-flow) in each running water body. In Spain, many of the minimum flow assessments were determined with the physical habitat simulation system based on univariate habitat suitability curves. Multivariate habitat suitability models, widely applied in habitat assessment, are potentially more accurate than univariate suitability models. This article analyses the microhabitat selection by medium-sized (10-20. cm) brown trout (Salmo trutta fario) in three streams of the Jucar River Basin District (eastern Iberian Peninsula). The data were collected with an equal effort sampling approach. Univariate habitat suitability curves were built with a data-driven process for depth, mean velocity and substrate classes; three types of data-driven fuzzy models were generated with the FISH software: two models of presence-absence and a model of abundance. FISH applies a hill-climbing algorithm to optimize the fuzzy rules. A hydraulic model was calibrated with the tool River-2D in a segment of the Cabriel River (Jucar River Basin). The fuzzy-logic models and three methods to produce a suitability index from the three univariate curves were applied to evaluate the river habitat in the tool CASiMiR©. The comparison of results was based on the spatial arrangement of habitat suitability and the curves of weighted usable area versus discharge. The differences were relevant in different aspects, e.g. in the estimated minimum environmental flow according to the Spanish legal norm for hydrological planning. This work demonstrates the impact of the model's selection on the habitat suitability modelling and the assessment of environmental flows, based on an objective data-driven procedure; the conclusions are important for the water management in the Jucar River Basin and other river systems in Europe, where the environmental flows are a keystone for the achievement of the goals established in the European Water Framework Directive. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.