Habitat Suitability Assessment

The Nova Scotia Fish Habitat Assessment Protocol (NSFHAP) has been created to standardize freshwater fish habitat assessment while making use of habitat suitability variables and values specific to Nova Scotian rivers. This standardizes field methods for site identification and the assessment of water quality, channel cross-sections, substrate and cover, riverbanks and riparian areas, and benthic macroinvertebrates. The method offers flexibility by being arranged as a set of key habitat variables required for basic assessment and additional variables for a full assessment. The key variables are habitat components that are considered most important to high quality fish habitat and can be evaluated if a rapid assessment is desired. A full assessment evaluates all habitat components listed in this manual and provides a more holistic assessment.


Much of the NSFHAP’s field methods are based on a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) designed for Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) that has been modified to accurately represent values for Nova Scotian watercourses. Several HSI variables for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) have also been used to permit the assessment of their habitat. The methods are also based on characteristics of freshwater hydrology and geomorphology that indicate effects from anthropogenic (human) influences that potentially cause negative impacts on fish habitat quality.


The NSFHAP has been designed to aid those involved in freshwater fish habitat conservation assess sites prior to potential degradation to fish habitat and following impacts to determine the degree of harm or to determine the weaknesses in the habitat as an aid in the restoration of fish habitat that has been degraded. The field assessed habitat variables, once evaluated in the HSI, offer an accurate assessment of fish habitat quality represented by the physical and basic water quality conditions of specific stretches of river.


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