Cooperative Research Units
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Habitat Requirements of Larval and Adult Desert Fishes in Cherry Creek, Arizona: Implications for Water Rights Litigation


September 2008 - October 2016


Knowledge of flow, temperature and other habitat requirements are critically important for protecting desert fish communities. Recently, mining companies and other interests have been challenging flow requirements for desert streams. As part of team of riparian ecologists, in-stream flow modelers, and fish ecologists we are determining the habitat requirements for fishes in Cherry Creek (Tonto National Forest), Arizona. Using a variety of sampling techniques, our goal is to determine which habitats in the creek are suitable for each fish species in the community. We assess substrate type, water current velocity, depth, and other physical habitat, and water variables, and sample the fish community. We then analyze data to unveil the relationships between a given species and the habitat attributes. This information is being used to develop habitat suitability criteria. These criteria are being used for in-stream flow models of the creek to determine how different water levels affect desert fish communities. The US Forest Service plans to use this information in test cases for aquatic habitat protection in desert streams. A technical report has been published and other reports are in preparation.

Research Products and Activities

Technical Publications

  • Bonar, S. A., N. Mercado-Silva, and D. Rogowski. 2010. Habitat use by the fishes of a southwestern desert stream: Cherry Creek, Arizona. Research Report. USGS Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Arizona

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 101

Masters Students: 234

Phd Students: 160

Post Docs: 60

University Staff: 268

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 671

Scientific Publications: 1868

Presentations: 4326



  • Scott BonarPrincipal Investigator
  • Norman Mercado-SilvaStaff

Funding Agencies

  • U.S. Forest Service


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey