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Abstract

The purpose of this design manual is to provide restoration practitioners with guidelines for implementing a subset of low-tech tools —namely beaver dam analogues (BDAs) and post-assisted log structures (PALS)—for initiating process-based restoration in structurally-starved riverscapes. While the concept of process-based restoration in riverscapes has been advocated for at least two decades, details and specific examples on how to implement it remain sparse. Here, we describe ‘low-tech process-based restoration’ (LT-PBR) as a practice of using simple, low unit-cost, structural additions (e.g. wood and beaver dams) to riverscapes to mimic functions and initiate specific processes. Hallmarks of this approach include: - An explicit focus on the processes that a low-tech restoration intervention is meant to promote - A conscious effort to use cost-effective, low-tech treatments (e.g. hand-built, natural materials, non-engineered, short-term design life-spans) because of the need to efficiently scale-up application. - ‘Letting the system do the work’ which defers critical decision making to riverscapes and nature’s ecosystem engineers. Other resources available at: http://lowtechpbr.restoration.usu.edu
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... Riverscapes are an integral part of both the natural landscape and urban environments. They include the river channel, its connected floodplain, and the biotic communities that together constitute the river valley bottom (Wheaton et al., 2019), as well as infrastructure and recreational corridors. In cities, riverscapes often exhibit particularly poor ecological health (Paul and Meyer, 2001) and highly altered morphologies (Vietz et al., 2016a(Vietz et al., , 2016b. ...
... Carbonneau et al. (2012) examined the ways in which recent technical and methodological developments in remote sensing have enabled the quantitative documentation and analysis of riverscapes. Wheaton et al. (2019) focused on several hallmarks of healthy riverscapes, which include space for floodplain engagement and dynamic behavior, as well as structures that add complexity and resilience-large wood or beaver dams-and hydraulic inefficiency. Wohl (2014) found that, while context is widely variable (Wohl, 2018) and should guide expectations (Brierley and Fryirs, 2009), messy rivers tend to be healthy rivers. ...
... We chose to anchor these tenets directly to reasoning derived from riverscape science and social-ecological system thinking (e.g., Brierley and Fryirs, 2005;Wheaton et al., 2019;Kondolf and Pinto, 2017;Mould et al., 2020a). Of critical importance, these tenets are not only grounded in scientific reasoning, but have been refined from and build off common river management practices. ...
Article
The services that rivers provide and how they affect the landscape plays a dominate role in urban planning and development. Urban riverscapes, which consist of stream channels, their floodplains, biotic communities, and manmade features, are complex social-ecological and hydrogeomorphic systems. Yet, despite recognition of their place and value, rivers are often degraded in urban settings. Successfully managing urban riverscapes requires improved methods to assess them and to more effectively link stressors to values, and to incorporate these considerations in planning. Assessment of urban riverscapes’ physical condition and function—a hydrogeomorphic assessment—is necessary to make these links, and inform more appropriate management strategies for sustainable and valued riverscape systems. The framework and methods used for such an assessment should be appropriate to the urban context, insofar as they are applicable to a range of streams from lightly degraded to highly utilized or constructed. Above all, the framework must prioritize the connection of human communities to riverscapes. In this article, we outline a framework for urban riverscape assessment which considers four facets of urban riverscapes: human values, hydrology, geomorphology, and ecology. The four facets, assessed across multiple nested scales, provide a flexible basis for context-driven hydrogeomorphic assessment, which is vital to informing better planning and management of urban riverscapes. The framework can be integrated with other facets (e.g. geochemical, aquatic ecology) depending on the scope of the assessment. By linking intrinsic, relational, and use-based values to physical conditions, watershed managers can select relevant and measurable indicators that directly inform interventions in the riverscape, catchment, or urban zones to improve riverscape function and urban vitality through planning mechanisms. This assessment framework facilitates dialogue between managers, practitioners, scientists, and the community; enabling technical and non-technical inputs to the development of assessment criteria, and a shared vision to inform targets and goals.
... There are many similarities between the soil-water-carbon sinks resulting from different types of NIDS. Studies of the impacts of beaver dams, beaver dam analogs (BDAs), and rock detention structures allude to these likenesses Pollock et al., 2003;Silverman et al., 2019;Wheaton et al., 2019). NIDS store water and this attenuates floods, provides soil-moisture reservoirs that can be used by plants, and increases nutrient availability. ...
... Likewise, research conducted on rock detention structures installed in ephemeral riparian areas of dryland mountain streams has documented a transformation in vegetation, sediment, and water to create wetlands or wet meadows that mimic the biogeochemical functions of ciénegas . Similarly, beaver dams and BDAs slow and spread the flow of water, which helps recharge alluvial aquifers and benefits riparian and wetland plants Scamardo and Wohl, 2020;Wheaton et al., 2019). Photographs of a beaver dam construction depicts the similarities of installing human and beaver-made NIDS, as beavers often begin their dams as a short one-rock or check dam installed perpendicularly across a channel ( Fig. 3a and b). ...
... Aridifying degradation trends can be reversed to restore regenerative natural processes and feedback loops by installing NIDS back into the landscape (Ciotti et al., 2021;Lal, 2015;Pollock et al., 2014;Silverman et al., 2019;Wheaton et al., 2019;Wohl et al., 2005). Installation of NIDS in dryland riparian ecosystems can restore wetlands, or create soilwater-carbon sinks, and nurtures a hydrating cycle and self-sustaining ecosystem. ...
Article
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In this article we describe the natural hydrogeomorphological and biogeochemical cycles of dryland fluvial ecosystems that make them unique, yet vulnerable to land use activities and climate change. We introduce Natural Infrastructure in Dryland Streams (NIDS), which are structures naturally or anthropogenically created from earth, wood, debris, or rock that can restore implicit function of these systems. This manuscript further discusses the capability of and functional similarities between beaver dams and anthropogenic NIDS, documented by decades of scientific study. In addition, we present the novel, evidence-based finding that NIDS can create wetlands in water-scarce riparian zones, with soil organic carbon stock as much as 200 to 1400 Mg C/ha in the top meter of soil. We identify the key restorative action of NIDS, which is to slow the drainage of water from the landscape such that more of it can infiltrate and be used to facilitate natural physical, chemical, and biological processes in fluvial environments. Specifically, we assert that the rapid drainage of water from such environments can be reversed through the restoration of natural infrastructure that once existed. We then explore how NIDS can be used to restore the natural biogeochemical feedback loops in these systems. We provide examples of how NIDS have been used to restore such feedback loops, the lessons learned from installation of NIDS in the dryland streams of the southwestern United States, how such efforts might be scaled up, and what the implications are for mitigating climate change effects. Our synthesis portrays how restoration using NIDS can support adaptation to and protection from climate-related disturbances and stressors such as drought, water shortages, flooding, heatwaves, dust storms, wildfire, biodiversity losses, and food insecurity.
... The Bailey Flat riverscape restoration design follows planning, implementation, and project management guidelines identified by the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Conservation Planning Process. The planning process has also been adapted to include components specific to riverscape restoration that are consistent with Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration (LTPBR) designs and practices (Wheaton et al. 2019, Figure 3). ...
Technical Report
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As-built report for Phase 1 of the Bailey Flat Low-tech Process-based Riverscape Restoration.
... Processbased, valley-scale restoration such as Stage 0 is hypothesized to support complex ecological interactions that occur over varying temporal and spatial scales (Beechie et al., 2010), leading to considerable uncertainty about the timeline and outcomes of this approach, as well as the necessary restoration techniques. For example, in locations with minimal anthropogenic disturbance, it may be possible to reach a Stage 0 condition quickly with less human intervention using beaver (Castor canadensis) dam analogs or post-assisted log structures (Wheaton et al., 2019). In other areas where significant human disturbance forced streams into a state of extreme degradation (i.e., Stage 3s; Cluer and Thorne, 2014), more time or substantial human intervention, such as redistribution of alluvial sediments, may be necessary to reach a Stage 0 condition (Powers et al., 2019). ...
Article
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Degraded floodplains and valley floors are restored with the goal of enhancing habitat for native fish and aquatic-riparian biota and the protection or improvement of water quality. Recent years have seen a shift toward "process-based restoration" that is intended to reestablish compromised ecogeomorphic processes resulting from site-or watershed-scale degradation. One form of process-based restoration has developed in the Pacific Northwest, United States, that is intended to reconnect rivers to their floodplains by slowing down flows of sediment, water, and nutrients to encourage lateral and vertical connectivity at base flows, facilitating development of dynamic, self-forming, and self-sustaining river-wetland corridors. Synergies between applied practices and the theoretical work of Cluer and Thorne in 2014 have led this form of restoration to be referred to regionally as restoration to a Stage 0 condition. This approach to rehabilitation is valley scale, rendering traditional monitoring strategies that target single-thread channels inadequate to capture pre-and post-project site conditions, thus motivating the development of novel monitoring approaches. We present a specific definition of this new type of rehabilitation that was developed in collaborative workshops with practitioners of the approach. Further, we present an initial synthesis of results from monitoring activities that provide a foundation for understanding the effects of this approach of river rehabilitation on substrate composition, depth to groundwater, water temperature, macroinvertebrate richness and abundance, secondary macroinvertebrate production, vegetation conditions, wood loading and configuration, water inundation, flow velocity, modeled juvenile salmonid habitat, and aquatic biodiversity.
... Fausch et al. (2002) popularized the term "riverscape" (like a landscape) and drew attention to the need to consider fluvial systems throughout their drainage networks. Riverscapes encompass valley bottoms and are "the part of the landscape that could plausibly flood by their rivers and streams in the natural flow regime" , Wheaton et al. 2019c). The phrase "could plausibly flood" is not defined in terms of a recurrence interval of inundation, but rather topographically defined by the area that the "contemporary natural flow regime" could reach (Gilbert et al. 2016, Roux et al. 2014. ...
Technical Report
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In order to characterize physical and biological conditions across the four planning segments of the Yampa Basin that comprise the geographical extent of the Yampa IWMP, a set of hydrogeomorphic and ecological indicators and associated metrics was developed. Each indicator described in this report was assessed based on remotely measurable metrics that together provide a holistic understanding of river health and its degree of functionality. To the extent supported by available data, we have assessed indicators that are either currently used in the Yampa Basin or are otherwise relevant to assessing the hydrogeomorphic and ecological conditions within the basin. The selected indicators account for TSC priorities, project objectives, data availability, riverscape principles, and ability of remote sensing methods to accurately characterizing trends in river health. For each indicator, we include the metrics that support examination of that indicator and assess the quantity and quality of available data to evaluate those variables.
Article
The presence of year-round surface water in streams (i.e., streamflow permanence) is an important factor for identifying aquatic habitat availability, determining the regulatory status of streams, managing land use change, allocating water resources, and designing scientific studies. However, accurate, high resolution, and dynamic prediction of streamflow permanence that accounts for year-to-year variability at a regional extent is a major gap in modeling capability. Herein, we expand and adapt the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) PRObability of Streamflow PERmanence (PROSPER) model from its original implementation in the Pacific Northwest (PROSPERPNW) to the upper Missouri River basin (PROSPERUM), a geographical region that includes mountain and prairie ecosystems of the northern United States. PROSPERUM is an empirical model used to estimate the probability that a stream channel has year-round flow in response to climatic conditions (monthly and annual) and static physiographic predictor variables of the upstream basin. The structure and approach of PROSPERUM are generally consistent with the PROSPERPNW model but include improved spatial resolution (10 m) and a longer modeling period. Average model accuracy was 81%. Drainage area, upstream proportion as wetlands, and upstream proportion as developed land cover were the most important predictor variables. The PROSPERUM model identifies decreases in streamflow permanence during climatically drier years, although there is variability in the magnitude across basins highlighting geographically varying sensitivity to drought. Variability in the response of perennial streams to drought conditions among basins in the study area was also observed.
Article
Process interactions on catenas have supported grazing adapted ecosystems and sustained biodiversity values in the source zone of the Yellow River in western China for millennia. In recent decades, anthropogenic disturbance and climate change have threatened the integrity of these systems, impacting upon environmental values and their capacity to sustain local livelihoods. Collaborations between local experts and a team of international researchers during a workshop and field excursion to this area in July 2019 developed a cross-disciplinary, process-based model of alpine meadow catenas. This paper relates the contemporary health of these grassland-wetland systems to their ‘best achievable state’ under prevailing boundary conditions, differentiating stages of degradation and recovery in relation to climate and land use changes. Recovery is underway for alpine meadow catenas at Maqin. Reduced land use pressures (stocking rates) and longer growing seasons have enhanced grassland-wetland conditions. However, recovery prospects are limited for local areas of extremely degraded grasslands (heitutan), as breached abiotic thresholds have resulted in soil and nutrient loss and reduced capacity for water retention. While lagomorphs and rodents act as ecosystem engineers when alpine meadows are in a healthy state, irruptions locally increase the proportion of bare ground and inhibit recovery potential. Management options that support recovery of alpine meadows are presented for differing stages of degradation.
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Beaver (Castor canadensis) translocation and mimicry is an increasingly popular tool for process-based restoration of degraded streams. Processes influenced by beaver restoration include stream-floodplain connectivity, multi-threaded channel formation, enhanced riparian condition and fire resiliency, and streamflow attenuation. Beaver activity can also be a nuisance in agricultural settings, increase invasive species abundance, and create in-stream barriers to fish. Previous studies indicate that spring-spawning salmonid species can pass beaver dams in higher proportions than fall-spawning species. Thus, restoration or mimicry of beavers in streams containing fall-spawning, threatened Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) is of concern to many biologists. We evaluated Bull Trout passage at beaver dams in two Montana streams: Meadow Creek (East Fork Bitterroot River drainage) in summer 2020 and Morrison Creek (Middle Fork Flathead River drainage) from 1997 to 2011. In Meadow Creek, 16% of PIT-tagged Bull Trout which entered a large beaver dam complex were detected upstream of some dams, but no fish moved through the entire 1 km complex. In Morrison Creek, redds were more likely than random to be located below dams, but two or more redds were found upstream of at least one dam in 6 of 9 years dams were present. These results suggest that beaver dams can affect the movement of Bull Trout, but that passage depends on the characteristics of individual dams and reach geomorphology. Our methods cannot distinguish between inhibition of fish movement and selection of beaver-created habitats by fish. Therefore, we suggest future research on beaver restoration in streams with Bull trout.
Article
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By connecting corridors of river recovery, resilience can be built into river systems to mitigate against future floods and droughts driven by anthropogenic disturbance or climate extremes. However, identifying where these corridors can be built is still lacking in river management practice. The Open Access NSW River Styles database contains comprehensive information on geomorphic river condition and recovery potential. The database can be used to systematically analyse where corridors of river recovery could be created via conservation or rehabilitation. Analysis was undertaken in ArcGIS using the recovery potential layer along 84,342 km of freshwater stream length, across 20 catchments of coastal NSW. We identified 4,905 km of reach connections, defined as an upstream to downstream section of river that is connected end-to-end, and 17,429 km of loci connections defined as more isolated sections of river from which recovery can be seeded and extended into adjacent reaches. There was significant spatial variability in the types and lengths of connections made across the catchments. Some catchments have significant potential to build corridors of recovery along large sections of river, whereas other catchments are more fragmented. These results provide practitioners with a user-friendly distillation of where river conservation and rehabilitation activities could be focussed when working with river recovery in practice. Combined with local on-ground knowledge, this information forms an important input to evidence-based prioritisation and decision making in river management.
Article
Despite research into the dynamics of seed transport in fluvial systems, few consider how far seeds will travel, and how far from local or upstream seed sources passive regeneration can occur. We experimentally test the seed floating time of 60 plant species (50 native and 10 exotic) commonly found in riparian corridors of southeastern Australia. Around 50% of species had seeds that floated for 2 days or less, and for most species' (90%) all seeds had sunk within one week. Seeds of native species tended to sink more quickly than exotic, with 64% of native species' seeds floating for less than 2 days. In contrast, most exotic species (80%) floated for longer than 2 days, and 40% had seeds still floating after one week. This suggests that exotic species are good floaters and likely to travel long distances, making them excellent hydrochores. Finally, we applied the findings to a real case study, Wollombi Brook, NSW, Australia. We combined the findings from the seed floating experiment with low flow hydrology calculations to map the potential travel distance of seeds from known extant vegetation sources. We show that maximum seed travel distance per day could be up to 21 km. Thus, species that float for a week could potentially travel almost 150 km downstream before sinking or being deposited. We discuss how local versus upstream seed sources, and hydrochory, could be utilised in passive revegetation and weed management of riparian corridors.
Technical Report
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The Low-Tech Process Based Restoration of Riverscapes Pocket Guide is an illustrated and condensed version of the Design Manual (http://lowtechpbr.restoration.usu.edu). The pocket guide is designed to fit in your pocket (4 x 6") to use as a reference in the field.
Technical Report
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Chapter Four of Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes: Design Manual (http://lowtechpbr.restoration.usu.edu Post-assisted log structures (PALS) and beaver dam analogues (BDAs) are hand-built structures. PALS mimicand promote the processes of wood accumulation; whereas BDAs mimic and promote beaver dam activity. •PALS and BDAs are permeable, temporary structures, built using natural materials. •BDAs differ from PALS in and that BDAs create ponds using a variety of fill materials; PALS are built with only woody material, which tends to be larger diameter than the woody material used for BDAs.•PALS and BDAs are both intended to address the broad impairment of structural starvation in wadeable streams, but can also be used to mitigate against a range of more specific impairments. •PALS and BDAs can be built using a variety of natural materials, and built to a range of different shapes, sizes and orientations.•PALS and BDAs are most likely to achieve restoration goals when built in high numbers.•Some PALS and BDAs are likely to breach and/or lose some wood, but when many structures are installed, that material will accumulate on downstream structures or in natural accumulation areas leading to more complexity.
Technical Report
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Chapter Two of Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes: Design Manual (http://lowtechpbr.restoration.usu.edu) Low-tech process-based restoration principles are critical to understand as both the basis for effectively applying low-tech restoration treatments and managing expectations about timing and magnitude of outcomes. We propose and synthesize principles that help practitioners tackle low-tech process-based restoration of structurally-starved riverscapes. Many of these principles likely apply to a greater range of riverscapes, but we do not cover those applications here. We break our guiding principles into: - Riverscapes Principles - those that represent an understanding of what constitutes healthy riverscapes to help define what restoration should be aiming for; and - Restoration Principles – those that influence the choices and approach we take in planning, designing and implementing low-tech restoration. Since we focus on structurally-starved riverscapes, low-tech restoration that mimics and promotes the processes of wood accumulation and beaver dam activity specifically emerge out of these principles. These principles collectively provide practitioners with the rationale and strategies to attempt to tackle the true scope of degradation with simple, smart, agile and scalable low-tech solutions that rely on the system itself to do most of the work of recovery and find self-sustaining and resilient futures.
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This report, contracted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) describes an Adaptive Management Plan for the translocation of beaver as part of stream restoration efforts in the Grouse Creek Watershed (bid AS17157; purchase order no. 560 170000000000222) in northwest Box Elder County, UT. The purpose of this report is to present an adaptive management plan that guides the translocation of beaver into restored stream reaches along Pine Creek, Kimbell Creek, and Cotton Creek in order to achieve restoration objectives and also mitigate the potential threats that such translocation may produce. The report provides a simple framework to guide decision making and management action as it pertains to beaver translocation, monitoring beaver activity, and potential management actions in response to threats to infrastructure posed by beaver dam building activity. The plan identifies specific courses of action in response to different levels of risk and beaver activity, but also acknowledges that ultimately management decisions belong to the private land-owner, Jay Tanner, for whom the restoration was performed. There are limited infrastructure concerns within the proposed translocation reaches, as such much of this report is concerned with outlining a more generalized approach to identifying potential risks outside of the restoration and translocation areas and presenting a decision-making framework.
Article
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Riparian and aquatic habitats support biodiversity and key environmental processes in semi-arid and arid landscapes, but stressors such as conventional livestock grazing, wildfire, and drought can degrade their condition. To enhance habitat for fish and wildlife and increase resiliency in these critical areas, land managers in the interior western United States increasingly use alternative grazing strategies, beaver management, or beaver dam surrogates as low-effort, low-expense restoration approaches. In this study we used historical archives of satellite and aerial imagery spanning three decades to characterize riparian vegetation productivity and document beaver dam occurrences, then evaluated vegetation productivity relative to land management associated with livestock grazing and beaver dam densities while accounting for climate and wildfire. After controlling for stream characteristics such as stream size, elevation, and stream slope, we demonstrate a positive response of riparian area vegetation to conservation-oriented grazing approaches and livestock exclosures, extensive beaver dam development, increased precipitation, and lack of wildfire. We show that livestock management which emphasizes riparian recovery objectives can be an important precursor to beaver activity and describe 11 – 39% increases in floodplain vegetation productivity where conservation-oriented grazing approaches or livestock exclosures and high beaver activity occur together on low-gradient sites. Land management decisions can therefore potentially confer resiliency to riparian areas under changing and variable climate conditions – the increased vegetation productivity resulting from conservation-oriented grazing or exclosures and high amounts of beaver activity at our sites is the equivalent to moving conventionally-grazed, low-gradient sites without beaver up at least 250 m in elevation or increasing water year precipitation by at least 250 mm.
Article
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Beaver reintroductions and beaver dam structures are an increasingly utilized ecological tool for rehabilitating degraded streams, yet beaver dams can potentially impact upstream fish migrations. We collected two years of data on Arctic grayling movement through a series of beaver dams in a low gradient mountain stream, utilizing radio‐telemetry techniques, to determine how hydrology, dam characteristics, and fish attributes impeded passage and movement rates of spawning grayling. We compared fish movement between a “normal” flow year and a “low” flow year, determined grayling passage probabilities over dams in relation to a suite of factors, and predicted daily movement rates in relation to the number of dams each fish passed and distance between dams during upstream migration to spawning areas. We found that the average passage probability over unbreached beaver dams was 88%, though we found that it fell below 50% at specific dams. Upstream passage of grayling was affected by three main characteristics: (a) temperature, (b) breach status, and (c) hydrologic linkages that connect sections of stream above and below the dam. Other variables influence passage, but to a lesser degree. Cumulative passage varied with distance upstream and total number of dams passed in low versus normal flow years, while movement rates upstream slowed as fish swam closer to dams. Our findings demonstrate that upstream passage of fish over beaver dams is strongly correlated with hydrologic conditions with moderate controls by dam‐ and fish‐level characteristics. Our results provide a framework that can be applied to reduce barrier effects when and where beaver dams pose a significant threat to the upstream migration of fish populations while maintaining the diverse ecological benefits of beaver activity when dams are not a threat to fish passage.
Article
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Stream restoration approaches most often quantify habitat degradation, and therefore recovery objectives, on aquatic habitat metrics based on a narrow range of species needs (e.g., salmon and trout), as well as channel evolution models and channel design tools biased toward single‐threaded, and “sediment‐balanced” channel patterns. Although this strategy enhances perceived habitat needs, it often fails to properly identify the underlying geomorphological and ecological processes limiting species recovery and ecosystem restoration. In this paper, a unique process‐based approach to restoration that strives to restore degraded stream, river, or meadow systems to the premanipulated condition is presented. The proposed relatively simple Geomorphic Grade Line (GGL) design method is based on Geographic Information System (GIS) and field‐based analyses and the development of design maps using relative elevation models that expose the relic predisturbance valley surface. Several case studies are presented to both describe the development of the GGL method and to illustrate how the GGL method of evaluating valley surfaces has been applied to Stage 0 restoration design. The paper also summarizes the wide applicability of the GGL method, the advantages and limitations of the method, and key considerations for future designers of Stage 0 systems anywhere in the world. By presenting this ongoing Stage 0 restoration work, the authors hope to inspire other practitioners to embrace the restoration of dynamism and diversity through restoring the processes that create multifaceted river systems that provide long‐term resiliency, meta‐stability, larger and more complex and diverse habitats, and optimal ecosystem benefits.
Presentation
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This was a talk expanding the classic river health analogy to think about what role restoration actions can play in contributing to a rivers health. The talk attempts to make the case for low-tech process based restoration as feeding meals to promote specific exercise (processes), as part of a healthy lifestyle for rivers. By contrast, most restoration practice is overly focused on surgery as the only restoration tool.
Article
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Restoration of riparian and wet meadow ecosystems in semi‐arid rangelands of the western U.S. is a high priority given their ecological and hydrological importance in the region. However, traditional restoration approaches are often intensive and costly, limiting the extent over which they can be applied. Practitioners are increasingly trying new restoration techniques that are more cost effective, less intensive, and can more practically scale up to the scope of degradation. Unfortunately, practitioners typically lack resources to undertake outcome‐based evaluations necessary to judge the efficacy of these techniques. In this study, we use freely‐available, satellite remote sensing to explore changes in vegetation productivity (NDVI) of three distinct, low‐tech riparian and wet meadow restoration projects. Case studies are presented that range in geographic location (Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada), restoration practice (Zeedyk structures, beaver dam analogs, and grazing management), and time since implementation. Restoration practices resulted in increased vegetation productivity of up to 25% and increased annual persistence of productive vegetation. Improvements in productivity with time since restoration suggest that elevated resilience may further enhance wildlife habitat and increase forage production. Long‐term, documented outcomes of conservation are rare; we hope our findings empower practitioners to further monitor and explore the use of low‐tech methods for restoration of ecohydrologic processes at meaningful spatial scales. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.