The Upper Esopus Creek, a popular trout-fishing and recreational stream in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, received historic flooding from Tropical Storm Irene on August 28, 2011. Streamflows approached or surpassed the 1% annual exceedance probability (>100 year) flood levels at several USGS streamgages in this basin. Short-term flood impacts on biological assemblages have been assessed in several studies, but longer-term effects, recovery, and analysis of factors affecting ecosystem resiliency have rarely been investigated.
The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS), New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County (CCEUC) collaborated on a study of fish communities at 18 sites from 2009-2011 (prior to the flood). The pre-flood data at these sites provided an opportunity to quantify the impacts of Irene on stream fish assemblages and to assess if the degree of biological impact was correlated with the magnitude of the flood.
The main objective of this study is to increase our understanding of the response (short- and long-term impacts) and recovery of fish assemblages to extreme hydrologic events. More specific goals are to document the impacts, recovery, and apparent resilience of brown and rainbow trout populations and entire fish communities in the Upper Esopus Creek basin.
Additional funding by CCEUC, New York State Energy Researchand Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the USGS allowed for resampling fish assemblages at 9 of the original sites during both 2012 and 2013. Data was complied, verified, and analyzed to test hypotheses that the floods would cause:
Analyses conducted to date indicate that:
George, S.D., Baldigo, B.P., Smith, A.J. and Robinson, G.R. (2015). Effects of an Extreme Flood on Aquatic Biota in a Catskill Mountain River. Summary report #15-08. Prepared for New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
George, S. D., Baldigo, B. P., Smith, A. J. and Robinson, G. R. (2015), Effects of extreme floods on trout populations and fish communities in a Catskill Mountain river. Freshwater Biology. doi: 10.1111/fwb.12577
Smith, A.J., Baldigo, B.P., Duffty, B.T., George, S.D., Dresser B., (2019), Resilience of benthic macroinvertebrates to extreme floods in a Catskill Mountain river, New York, USA: Implications for water quality monitoring and assessment, Ecological Indicators, v 104, p.107-115. https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70203340
Project Location by County
Greene County, NY, Ulster County, NY, Delaware County, NY
Click on title to download individual files attached to this item.
“Upper Esopus Creek before Irene”
“Upper Esopus Creek after Irene”
“Field crew sampling fish assemblages”
“Wild Esopus Creek Rainbow Trout”
“large Esopus brown trout captured during a 2009 survey”
“Upper Esopus Creek Watershed”