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Modifying a Habitat Alteration Assessment Tool for Use in a Changing Climate


The image shows a mosaic of ecosystem characteristics, including vegetation, physical characteristics of water (temperature, oxygen level, etc.), and fish species. Photo: DFO.

The Habitat Alteration Assessment Tool (HAAT) has been used to determine the availability of fish habitat in freshwater lakes and rivers before and after changes. The tool combines information on depth, substrate, and vegetation associations to calculate the changes in availability of suitable habitat after in water projects. Results inform possible impacts or improvements to the ongoing productivity of fish communities and fisheries populations and their use of different habitats at different life stages. Researchers are working to create a new tool known as HEAT (Habitat/Ecosystem Assessment Tool) that will include the basic functionality of HAAT but add temperature and water levels in the assessment, allowing managers to evaluate climate influences on aquatic ecosystems.

Results: Development of the HEAT software program was initiated with surveys and workshops, which helped set priorities for future programming needs. A report on survey and workshop results is expected in Feb 2014. Conceptual models for incorporating temperature and water levels into the tool's framework have been developed and are currently being vetted and documented. When problems arose with accessibility to the existing HAAT platform, researchers shifted priorities in software development to first ensure availability of the existing tool to clients before further developing HEAT with added functionality, identified through user and science engagement. The reprogrammed tool is currently being beta tested. The strengthened HAAT platform will support the development of a fully functioning HEAT evaluation package, which is the subject of a corresponding 2013-2014 ACCASP proposal. The results of this study will be included in scientific and DFO publications.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Central Canada: Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Freshwater Drainage Basin

Principal Investigator(s)

Susan Doka
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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