Habitat disturbances are rarely uniform in their magnitude or duration through river networks, creating a shifting mosaic of habitat conditions for freshwater species. Understanding how these habitat disturbances may affect ecological populations, especially when faced with increasing fragmentation, is an on-going challenge. Collaborating with aquatic population ecologists Drs. Phaedra Budy & Tim Walsworth and population ecology biometrician Dr. Mary Conner at Utah State, I have developed an innovative, open-source, metapopulation model: the Dynamic Habitat Disturbance and Ecological Resilience (DyHDER or "Die Harder") model, which incorporates local habitat conditions and subpopulation connectivity into a population viability analysis (PVA) framework (Murphy et al., Ecosphere, 2020).
Click HERE to read our open-access Ecosphere publication introducing DyHDER.
Our first application of this model was for Bonneville cutthroat trout of the Logan River (Utah, USA), for which we have 18 years of high-quality empirical population and habitat data for 7 locations (subpopulations) in the river network (Murphy et al, Ecosphere, 2020). In this study, we examined how incorporating commonly used habitat metrics influence population stability, as well as explore how habitat disturbances, such as climate change and network fragmentation, affect the dynamics and spatial distributions of trout populations.
Recognizing the increasing threat to ecosystems posed by fragmentation and changing disturbance regimes, our open-source model provides a new tool to allow for the prioritization of restoration efforts and better informed management in landscapes where species conservation and management are a priority.
To find, download, and use the DyHDER model, please visit: github.com/bpmurphy