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Rebecca Flitcroft

Rebecca Flitcroft

Research Fish Biologist,
Team Leader, Landscape and Ecosystem Management

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Corvallis Forestry Sciences Lab

Contact via email
Phone: (541)750-7346
Fax: (541)750-7329
Resume (83 KB)

Statement of Research:

In my research, I am drawn to questions that explore holistic approaches to watershed analysis and management. I am interested in both statistical and physical representations of stream networks in analysis and monitoring that more realistically represent stream complexity and connectivity for aquatic species along four primary lines of research: multiscale salmonid ecology; stream network analysis; climate change and salmonid life history; and integrated watershed management. Salmonids have complex life histories that require a multidisciplinary approach (biology, ecology, landscape ecology, hydrology, geomorphology) to understand the implications of ecological processes at multiple scales. I am interested in defining and solving the difficult problems associated with salmonid occupancy, distribution, and abundance in stream networks over time under current and predicted future conditions. I conduct studies to expand the existing knowledge base about the interaction between complex life-history phenology of Pacific salmonids and their environment. This issue is increasingly important in the context of climate change as it relates to available habitats in coastal draining systems. I see successful collaboration among all stakeholders in a watershed as instrumental to the successful restoration of a river system. To this end, I work to develop relationships among landowners, land managers, and scientists to study and describe successful techniques for collaboration. I am involved with local, regional, and state-wide efforts in Oregon to develop coordinated management techniques focused on watersheds.

Projects & Activities:

Graphical abstract from Flitcroft et al. 2016 Forest Ecol. Mgmt.

Resilience of Native Fishes to Wildfire in the
Wenatchee River Watershed

Wildfire effects on aquatic ecosystems and species are complex
and varied. Bayesian network models in the Wenatchee River basin
predicted that wildfire can potentially improve habitat quality
for adult and overwintering juvenile spring Chinook Salmon through
increased wood delivery, but fine sediments can temporarily degrade
egg and fry habitat. This compares to the predicted effects of
wildlife on coldwater-dependent Bull Trout currently located in
isolated headwater streams with predicted high intensity wildfire.
Further, climate change will reduce coldwater availability and
thereby Bull Trout habitat patch sizes, increasing their
vulnerability to large and severe wildfires. However, forest
management activities, such as enhancing river network connectivity
and reducing predicted fire intensity and fire sizes may increase
the resilience of Bull Trout to disturbances such as climate change
and wildfire.

Falke et al. 2016 - Bull Trout
Flitcroft et al. 2016 - Chinook Salmon

Climate change and salmon in the Oregon Coast Range

Seasonal Fish Assemblages in Small Tidal Marshes
of the Coos River Estuary

Intertidal and subtidal areas are critical habitat for a wide
range of marine and amphidromous species. Numerous factors
(e.g., season of year, tidal height at time of sampling,
characteristics of instream habitat above the sampling site, or
land use in the watershed) can influence the species composition
of nearshore fish communities in marsh habitats. Scientifically
rigorous surveys designed to determine species diversity and
biomass at different tidal heights in each of the four seasons of
the year along Pacific coast estuaries are rare, but could provide
key information for conservation and restoration planning. Our
objective is to fill this information gap by determining the
species composition, relative abundance, and biomass of the
community of fishes at low and high tide in three sites in the
Coos Bay Lowlands Watershed of the Coos River Estuary, OR, during
each of the four seasons of the year. We will link SLR projections
with this fish information to model potential changes in estuarine
marsh habitat and fish assemblage.

Climate change and salmon in the Oregon Coast Range

Climate change and salmon in the Oregon Coast Range
Sea level rise will inundation estuaries changing the amount
and location of critical estuarine habitats for salmon. Changes
in stream flow and water temperature will impact
stream habitat. read more

Analyzing streams as networks

Analyzing Streams as Networks:
Streams are organized as interconnected water networks.
Fish and other aquatic obligate species use habitats
throughout a stream network. Analysis of patterns of
habitat and fish distribution within a stream network
offers an opportunity to consider new ideas about
native aquatic species persistence.

It takes a community to restore a watershed

It Takes a Community to Restore A Watershed
The Long Tom Watershed Council (LTWC) is an example of an
effective social infrastructure that integrates science with social
networks to develop coordinated watershed management that
is responsive to ongoing scientific learning. The Council’s
subwatershed enhancement program effectively enlists both
landowners and scientists to cooperate in stream
restoration projects. Read more

Multi-scale analysis of coho salmon over large spatial extents

Multi-scale Analysis of Coho Salmon Over Large Spatial Extents
The life history of coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch, is a complex
example of adaptation in response to diverse habitats in the dynamic
environments of the Pacific Northwest. As large-scale disturbances
affect the suitability of habitats in entire basins over time, adult coho
distribution patterns adapt to maintain salmon populations. Juvenile
coho respond to smaller-scale, local conditions as they seek specialized
seasonal habitats.

Selected Publications:

Flitcroft RL, Cerveny LK, Bormann BT, Smith JE, Asah ST and Fischer AP. In press. The emergence of watershed and forest collaboratives. Chapter 9 in: D. H. Olson and B. Van Horne (eds.), Reconnecting in Grand Forests of the Pacific Northwest. Island Press.

Steel A, Muldoon A, Flitcroft R, Firman J, Anlauf K. In press 2016. Characterizing broad-scale patterns of juvenile coho distribution in western Oregon. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Falke JA, Flitcroft RL, Dunham JB, McNyset KM, Hessburg PF, Reeves GH. 2016. Climate change and vulnerability of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in a fire-prone landscape. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 72(2): 304-318. dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjfas-2014-0098

Flitcroft R, Bottom D, Haberman K, Bierly K, Jones K, Simenstad C, Gray A, Ellingson K, Baumgartner E, Cornwell T, Campbell L. 2016. Expect the unexpected: place-based protections can lead to unforeseen benefits. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 26 (Suppl. 1): 39-59.

Flitcroft RL, Falke JA, Reeves GH, Hessburg PF, McNyset KM, Benda LE. 2016. Wildfire may increase habitat quality for spring Chinook salmon in the Wenatchee River subbasin, WA, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 359: 126-140.

Flitcroft R, Hansen B, Capurso J, Christiansen K. 2016. Coverage of aquatic invasive risk assessment in USFS Region 6. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 6. Corvallis, OR: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Juffe-Bignoli D, Harrison I, Butchart S, Flitcroft R, Hermoso V, Jonas H, Lukasiewicz A, Theme M, Turak E, Bingham H, and others. 2016. Achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 to improve protected areas performance and conserve freshwater biodiversity. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 26 (Suppl. 1): 133-151.

Penaluna B, Olson D, Flitcroft R, Weber M, Bellmore R, Wondzell S, Dunham J, Johnson S, Reeves G. 2016. Aquatic biodiversity in forests: a weak link in ecological and ecosystem service resilience. Biodiversity and Conservation. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10531-016-1148-0

Pittock J, Finlayson M, Arthington AH, Roux D, Matthews JH, Biggs H, Blom E, Flitcroft R, Froend R, Harrison I, Hermoso V, Junk W, Kumar R, Linke S, Nel J, Nunes da Cunha C, Pattnaik A, Pollard S, Rast W, Thieme M, Turak E, Turpie J, van Niekerk L, Willems D, Viers J. 2015. Chapter 19: Managing freshwater, river, wetland and estuarine protected areas, in Worboys G et al. (eds) Protected Area Governance and Management. World Commission on Protected Areas and ANU Press, Canberra.

Miller S, Flitcroft R. 2014. Linking upslope management actions to in-channel sediment and wood attributes across the US Northwest Forest Plan area. Presentation summary. In: Resource roads in British Columbia: environmental challenges at the site level, May 14-15, 2014, Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. Revelstoke, BC, Canada: Columbia Mountains Institute of Applied Ecology: 79-85.

Flitcroft R, Burnett K, Snyder J, Reeves G, Ganio L. 2014. Riverscape patterns among years of juvenile Coho Salmon in midcoastal Oregon: implications for conservation. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 143: 26-38.

Flitcroft R, Giannico G. 2013. Keeping pace with future environmental conditions in coastal Oregon, USA. Water Resources Impact 15(6): 6-9.

Flitcroft R, Burnett K, Christiansen K. 2013. A simple model that identifies potential effects of sea-level rise on estuarine and estuary-ecotone habitat locations for salmonids in Oregon, USA. Environmental Management 52(1): 196-208. Link to pub at SpringerLink.

Flitcroft RL, Burnett KM, Reeves GH, Ganio LM. 2012. Do network relationships matter? Comparing network and instream habitat variables to explain densities of juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in mid-coastal Oregon, USA. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 22: 288-302.

USFS PNW Research Station. 2011. Watershed councils: it takes a community to restore a watershed. Science Findings 129, January 2011.

Fullerton AH, Burnett KM, Steel EA, Flitcroft RL, Pess GR, Feist BE, Torgersen CE, Miller DJ, Sanderson BL. 2010. Hydrological connectivity for riverine fish: measurement challenges and research opportunities. Freshwater Biology 55: 2215-2237.

Flitcroft RL, Dedrick DC, Smith CL, Thieman CA, Bolte JP. 2009. Social infrastructure to integrate science and practice: the Experience of the Long Tom Watershed Council. The Journal of Ecology and Society 14(3):Art36.

Flitcroft, Rebecca L. 2007. Regions to streams: Spatial and temporal variation in stream occupancy patterns of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) on the Oregon Coast. Doctoral Dissertation, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.

Jones KK, Flitcroft RL, Thom BA. 2001. Spatial patterns of aquatic habitat in Oregon. In: Nishida T, Kailola PJ, Hollingworth CE, eds. Proceedings of the First International Symposium on GIS in Fishery Science (Seattle, WA, USA, 2-4 March 1999). Saitama, Japan: Fishery GIS Research Group: 266-280.