The really big picture of habitat: The conceptual underpinnings and vision for the National Fish Habitat Partnership – National Fish Habitat Assessment

, National Fish Habitat Partnership / Michigan DNR | Author(s): Gary Whelan, Michigan DNR Fisheries Division

Over much of the history of active fisheries management, fisheries managers who worked on degraded fisheries habitat have focused on dealing with the symptoms of the degradation of aquatic systems instead of the overarching processes that actually control fish habitat. The National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP) was formed in 2006 to provide a science-based, broad, and non-regulatory approach to dealing with the trillions in damages that have been done to our nation’s fish habitat. NFHP’s goal is to keep intact systems within and to move degraded system processes back to within 25% of the expected norm for those watersheds and uses a landscape level perspective to address the root causes of aquatic habitat. The key NFHP processes are: hydrology; connectivity; water quality; material recruitment and transport; geomorphology; and energy flow. These processes hold true in all waters with the key differences being the relative importance and the rates the processes operate. Each process will be broken down into measureable sub-components and how they affect management actions on the landscape highlighted. Putting these process level concepts to work at a landscape scale will require new skills sets for fisheries managers but the results should create resilient and sustainable fisheries.