The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), is the only trout (Salmonid) species native to Appalachia. Historically, the species was abundant in cold water streams from Maine to Georgia, but it has since been eliminated from much of its range due to human influence from logging, mining, development, agriculture, atmospheric deposition, and introduction of non-native trout species. Brook trout are valuable as indicators of stream health, requiring cold, clear, oxygen rich water and a rich aquatic macroinvertebrate community to survive (Page and Burr 1991). Efforts are underway to preserve and restore brook trout habitat for both ecological integrity and for recreational opportunity. The brook trout is highly sought by anglers for its beauty and wildness.
The main purpose of our monitoring project is to identify the potential of headwater streams in the Blackwater River watershed to support brook trout populations. By identifying potential brook trout streams and the impairments which currently prevent brook trout inhabitation, the study will provide a scientific background for developing projects to restore brook trout within the watershed. The study period was during the hottest, driest part of the year. This allowed us to measure the presence of adequate cold, summer flow for trout survival, which will primarily be the limiting factor in a streams ability to support brook trout. In addition, the background data collected in this study will become part of a statewide database so it can be used to track changes in stream health and assess the impacts of proposed or occurring land use changes. The project has given us more data on the Blackwater River watershed, which has helped improve our understanding of the watershed’s health and issues, and given us more data for our watershed mapping project and education programs. The project has also provided volunteers with the opportunity to learn about watershed science and become involved in a local watershed group. Measures were taken to ensure that the data collected was as accurate, precise, complete, representative, and comparable as possible. Save Our Streams sampling protocols were closely followed.