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Why Restore

Across the western United States, many lowland riparian areas have been negatively affected by invasive plant species, most notably, tamarisk and Russian olive. Restoration of these areas, through passive or active revegetation, can confer a number of benefits, including: improved wildlife habitat, wildfire risk reduction, flood mitigation, enhancement of safe outdoor recreational opportunities.
 
The resources provided in this section provide background on the impacts of invasive species, detail other ecosystem stressors affecting riparian habitat, and describe myriad benefits of restored riparian ecosystems. Several commonly used documents are also provided in the Top Ten Resources section
 

Top Ten Resources

  •  
    Prepared by the RiversEdge West (formerly Tamarisk Coalition) in 2008, this document addresses options for the control, biomass reduction, and revegetation management components. All currently available technologies have been evaluated; however, not all are applicable for a given river location. Tamarisk is the focus of this document’s control component because it is the principle non-native phreatophyte in western watersheds. In general, the following discussion applies to Russian olive and other invasive trees but may differ slightly for each (e.g., herbicide used).
     
  • This manual is intended to assist both the experienced revegetation professional as well as a landowner new to revegetation. It was developed through a synthesis of the best current research combined with experience from actual project managers in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The organization and recommendations of this manual generally follow the 7-step process recommended for tamarisk projects (defining a goal, establish a realistic restoration objective, prioritize and select sites, create site-specific restoration plan, implement plan, conduct post-project monitoring, and engage adaptive management). 
     
    This manual can be purchased from Dr. Anna Sher, via her website.
  • This document lists, by topic, peer-reviewed journal articles pertaining to riparian restoration, invasive species, and related research. 

  • Written by 44 of the field's most prominent scholars and scientists, this volume compiles 25 essays on tamarisk--its biology, ecology, politics, management, and the ethical issues involved with designating a particular species as "good" or "bad". The book analyzes the controversy surrounding tamarisk's role in our ecosystems and what should be done about it.

     

  •  
     
    Overview:
     
    Our rivers are in crisis and the need for river restoration has never been more urgent. Water security and biodiversity indices for all of the world’s major rivers have declined due to pollution, diversions, impoundments, fragmented flows, introduced and invasive species, and many other abuses.
     
    Developing successful restoration responses are essential. Renewing Our Rivers addresses this need head-on with examples of how to design and implement stream-corridor restoration projects. Based on the experiences of seasoned professionals, Renewing Our Rivers provides stream restoration practitioners the main steps to develop successful and viable stream restoration projects that last. Ecologists, geomorphologists, and hydrologists from dryland regions of Australia, Mexico, and the United States share case studies and key lessons learned for successful restoration and renewal of our most vital resource.
     
    The aim of this guidebook is to offer essential restoration guidance that allows a start-to-finish overview of what it takes to bring back a damaged stream corridor. Chapters cover planning, such emerging themes as climate change and environmental flow, the nuances of implementing restoration tactics, and monitoring restoration results. Renewing Our Rivers provides community members, educators, students, natural resource practitioners, experts, and scientists broader perspectives on how to move the science of restoration to practical success.
     
  • Abstract
    Fifteen federal agencies are developing a of stream corridor restoration planning and design technology document to serve as a common reference for field resource managers and other technical specialists. Offering a scientific perspective, the document will emphasize least intrusive solutions that are ecologically derived and self sustaining.
     
  • Stream Hydrology: An introduction for Ecologists (Gordon et al. 2004) - John Wiley & Sons.
     
     
    Since the publication of the first edition (1994) there have been rapid developments in the application of hydrology, geomorphology and ecology to stream management. In particular, growth has occurred in the areas of stream rehabilitation and the evaluation of environmental flow needs. The concept of stream health has been adopted as a way of assessing stream resources and setting management goals.

    Stream Hydrology: An Introduction for Ecologists Second Edition documents recent research and practice in these areas. Chapters provide information on sampling, field techniques, stream analysis, the hydrodynamics of moving water, channel form, sediment transport and commonly used statistical methods such as flow duration and flood frequency analysis. Methods are presented from engineering hydrology, fluvial geomorphology and hydraulics with examples of their biological implications. This book demonstrates how these fields are linked and utilised in modern, scientific river management.

    * Emphasis on applications, from collecting and analysing field measurements to using data and tools in stream management.
    * Updated to include new sections on environmental flows, rehabilitation, measuring stream health and stream classification.
    * Critical reviews of the successes and failures of implementation.
    * Revised and updated windows-based AQUAPAK software.

    This book is essential reading for 2nd/3rd year undergraduates and postgraduates of hydrology, stream ecology and fisheries science in Departments of Physical Geography, Biology, Environmental Science, Landscape Ecology, Environmental Engineering and Limnology. It would be valuable reading for professionals working in stream ecology, fisheries science and habitat management, environmental consultants and engineers.

     
     
  • Bringing Birds Home is a manual that describes how to proactively improve riparian habitat for bird species in Mesa County, Colorado.  

    This guide was made possible by a grant from the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and was produced by RiversEdge West, with help from the Grand Valley Audubon Society, Tucson Audubon Society, and Audubon Arizona.

     
  • This groundbreaking new publication from the Society for Ecological Restoration provides updated and expanded guidance on the practice of ecological restoration, clarifies the breadth of ecological restoration and allied environmental repair activities, and includes ideas and input from a diverse international group of restoration scientists and practitioners.

  • Abstract:  Throughout the world, the condition of many riparian ecosystems has declined due to numerous factors, including encroachment of non-native species. In the western United States, millions of dollars are spent annually to control invasions of Tamarix spp., introduced small trees or shrubs from Eurasia that have colonized bottomland ecosystems along many rivers. Resource managers seek to control Tamarix in attempts to meet various objectives, such as increasing water yield and improving wildlife habitat. Often, riparian restoration is an implicit goal, but there has been little emphasis on a process or principles to effectively plan restoration activities, and many Tamarix removal projects are unsuccessful at restoring native vegetation. We propose and summarize the key steps in a planning process aimed at developing effective restoration projects in Tamarix-dominated areas. We discuss in greater detail the biotic and abiotic factors central to the evaluation of potential restoration sites and summarize information about plant communities likely to replace Tamarix under various conditions. Although many projects begin with implementation, which includes the actual removal of Tamarix, we stress the importance of pre-project planning that includes: (1) clearly identifying project goals; (2) developing realistic project objectives based on a detailed evaluation of site conditions; (3) prioritizing and selecting Tamarix control sites with the best chance of ecological recovery; and (4) developing a detailed tactical plan before Tamarix is removed. After removal, monitoring and maintenance as part of an adaptive management approach are crucial for evaluating project success and determining the most effective methods for restoring these challenging sites.

  • Tree-of-heaven is an invasive tree in southwestern states that has been listed as a noxious weed in New Mexico. This field guide serves as the U.S. Forest Service’s recommendations for management of tree-of-heaven in forests, woodlands, and riparian areas associated with its Southwestern Region.

  • This field guide serves as the U.S. Forest Service's recommendations for management of Russian olive in forests, woodlands, and rangelands associated with its Southwestern Region. 

  •  University of Arizona Press, Briggs, M.K. and W.R. Osterkamp. 2020
     
     
    This guidebook builds on what came before, developing it as both a guidance 'how to' as well as a reference. Where restoration topics are well-documented and well-traveled, we offer references. Where not, we offer detailed guidance on how to develop a stream restoration response start to finish.
     
  • From Natural to Degraded Rivers and Back Again: A test of restoration ecology theory and practice (Feld et al. 2011); in Advances in Ecological Research - Elsevier Press.
     
     
    Summary
    Extensive degradation of ecosystems, combined with the increasing demands placed on the goods and services they provide, is a major driver of biodiversity loss on a global scale. In particular, the severe degradation of large rivers, their catchments, floodplains and lower estuarine reaches has been ongoing for many centuries, and the consequences are evident across Europe. River restoration is a relatively recent tool that has been brought to bear in attempts to reverse the effects of habitat simplification and ecosystem degradation, with a surge of projects undertaken in the 1990s in Europe and elsewhere, mainly North America. Here, we focus on restoration of the physical properties (e.g. substrate composition, bank and bed structure) of river ecosystems to ascertain what has, and what has not, been learned over the last 20 years.
     
    First, we focus on three common types of restoration measures—riparian buffer management, instream mesohabitat enhancement and the removal of weirs and small dams—to provide a structured overview of the literature. We distinguish between abiotic effects of restoration (e.g. increasing habitat diversity) and biological recovery (e.g. responses of algae, macrophytesmacroinvertebrates and fishes).
     
    We then addressed four major questions: (i) Which organisms show clear recovery after restoration? (ii) Is there evidence for qualitative linkages between restoration and recovery? (iii) What is the timescale of recovery? and (iv) What are the reasons, if restoration fails?
     
    Overall, riparian buffer zones reduced fine sediment entry, and nutrient and pesticide inflows, and positive effects on stream organisms were evident. Buffer width and length were key: 5–30 m width and > 1 km length were most effective. The introduction of large woody debris, boulders and gravel were the most commonly used restoration measures, but the potential positive effects of such local habitat enhancement schemes were often likely to be swamped by larger-scale geomorphological and physico-chemical effects. Studies demonstrating long-term biological recovery due to habitat enhancement were notable by their absence. In contrast, weir removal can have clear beneficial effects, although biological recovery might lag behind for several years, as huge amounts of fine sediment may have accumulated upstream of the former barrier.
     
    Three Danish restoration schemes are provided as focal case studies to supplement the literature review and largely supported our findings. While the large-scale re-meandering and re-establishment of water levels at River Skjern resulted in significant recovery of riverine biota, habitat enhancement schemes at smaller-scales in other rivers were largely ineffective and failed to show long-term recovery.
     
    The general lack of knowledge derived from integrated, well-designed and long-term restoration schemes is striking, and we present a conceptual framework to help address this problem. The framework was applied to the three restoration types included in our study and highlights recurrent cause–effect chains, that is, commonly observed relationships of restoration measures (cause) and their effects on abiotic and biotic conditions (effect). Such conceptual models can provide useful new tools for devising more effective river restoration, and for identifying avenues for future research in restoration ecology in general.
  • Stream Channel Reference Sites: An illustrated guide to field technique (Harrelson et al. 1994) - USDA Forest Service
     
    This document is a guide to establishing permanent reference sites for gathering data about the physical characteristics of streams and rivers. The minimum procedure consists of the following: (1) select a site, (2) map the site and location, (3) measure the channel cross-section, (4) survey a longitudinal profile of the channel, (5) measure streamflow, (6) measure bed material, and (7) permanently file the information with the Vigil network. The document includes basic surveying techniques, provides guidelines for identifying bankfull indicators and measuring other important stream characteristics. The object is to establish the baseline of existing physical conditions for the stream channel. With this foundation, changes in the character of streams can be quantified for monitoring purposes or to support other management decisions.
  • Our rivers are in crisis and the need for river restoration has never been more urgent. Water security and biodiversity indices for all of the world’s major rivers have declined due to pollution, diversions, impoundments, fragmented flows, introduced and invasive species, and many other abuses.
     
    Developing successful restoration responses are essential. Renewing Our Rivers addresses this need head-on with examples of how to design and implement stream-corridor restoration projects. Based on the experiences of seasoned professionals, Renewing Our Rivers provides stream restoration practitioners the main steps to develop successful and viable stream restoration projects that last.
     
    Ecologists, geomorphologists, and hydrologists from dryland regions of Australia, Mexico, and the United States share case studies and key lessons learned for successful restoration and renewal of our most vital resource. The aim of this guidebook is to offer essential restoration guidance that allows a start-to-finish overview of what it takes to bring back a damaged stream corridor. Chapters cover planning, such emerging themes as climate change and environmental flow, the nuances of implementing restoration tactics, and monitoring restoration results. Renewing Our Rivers provides community members, educators, students, natural resource practitioners, experts, and scientists broader perspectives on how to move the science of restoration to practical success.
     
     
  • A Guide to Enhancing Rivers, Streams and Desert Washes for Birds and Other Wildlife.

    Produced by Tucson Audubon Society, Audubon Arizona, and Arizona Game and Fish.

  • Bioengineering practices provide resiliency for streambanks, enhance wildlife habitat, enhance organic matter inputs to streams, improve water quality, increase floodplain roughness, and heighten landscape aesthetics so important to countless residents, visitors, and businesses. Accordingly, the authors have created the following manuscript to:
    • Provide guidelines for a comprehensive bioengineering strategy;
    • Incorporate design elements that impart site stability and resilience;
    • Include project recommendations that minimize risk during periods of vulnerability;
    • Increase understanding of how to properly apply bioengineering and revegetation techniques;
    • Provide background resources on the combined forces of water and gravity as they pertain to bioengineered structures; and
    • Create a searchable Revegetation Matrix for the primary native restoration species useful for flood recovery and other riparian areas throughout Colorado.
  • This field guide serves as the U.S. Forest Service's recommendations for management of tamarisk in the Southwestern US. 

  • Siberian elm is common to southwestern states and is listed as a noxious tree in New Mexico. This field guide serves as the U.S. Forest Service’s recommendations for management of Siberian elm in forests, woodlands, and rangelands associated with its Southwestern Region. 

Restoration Value

  • This short handout summarizes key points from the 2010  Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) and Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in the Western United States—A Report on the State of the Science.

  • This 57-page guide from the Salt Lake County Watershed Planning & Restoration Program  explores the basics of protecting water quality, streamside habitat, and property values. While written for the Salt Lake area, the information contained in this guide is applicable to a wide range of landowners. 

    In this guide you’ll find out how you and your neighbors can:

    • Prevent or minimize erosion problems
    • Avoid flood losses
    • Protect property values
    • Preserve water quality
    • Contribute to the survival of fish and wildlife
  • This document provides an introduction to environmental flows, models for E-flow recovery, describes rivers in peril and watershed health, and provides recommendations for restoring E-flow. 

  •  
     
    Overview:
     
    Our rivers are in crisis and the need for river restoration has never been more urgent. Water security and biodiversity indices for all of the world’s major rivers have declined due to pollution, diversions, impoundments, fragmented flows, introduced and invasive species, and many other abuses.
     
    Developing successful restoration responses are essential. Renewing Our Rivers addresses this need head-on with examples of how to design and implement stream-corridor restoration projects. Based on the experiences of seasoned professionals, Renewing Our Rivers provides stream restoration practitioners the main steps to develop successful and viable stream restoration projects that last. Ecologists, geomorphologists, and hydrologists from dryland regions of Australia, Mexico, and the United States share case studies and key lessons learned for successful restoration and renewal of our most vital resource.
     
    The aim of this guidebook is to offer essential restoration guidance that allows a start-to-finish overview of what it takes to bring back a damaged stream corridor. Chapters cover planning, such emerging themes as climate change and environmental flow, the nuances of implementing restoration tactics, and monitoring restoration results. Renewing Our Rivers provides community members, educators, students, natural resource practitioners, experts, and scientists broader perspectives on how to move the science of restoration to practical success.
     
  • Author(s): Steven W. Carothers; R. Roy Johnson; Deborah M. Finch; Kenneth J. Kingsley; Robert H. Hamre
     
    In the Preface to volume 1, we discuss the development of riparian ecology as one of the newest of ecological fields that gained significant momentum in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the general “riparian movement” in the United States. The field expanded rapidly throughout the latter half of the 1900s. Volume 2 involves more than two dozen authors - most with decades of experience - who expand upon riparian and other topics introduced in volume 1. Two important recent developments are global climate change and impacts of introduced tamarisk leaf beetles (Diorhabda spp.) in the American West. Other chapters in volume 2 that provide current information evaluate the losses of riparian habitat, including “extirpation” of a large number of mesquite bosques (woodlands) in the Southwest; the restoration of riparian ecosystems damaged by anthropogenic activities; the importance of a watershed; and the importance of riparian ecosystems to recreation. The combination of volumes 1 and 2 examines the evolving understanding of scientific implications and anthropogenic threats to those ecosystems from Euro-American settlement of the region to present. >> Volume 1 is also available in Treesearch: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/57341
  • This website provides a suite of resources produced by the Sonoran Institute, an Arizona based nonprofit focused on connecting people and communities with the natural resources that nourish and sustain them. 

  • This publication has been prepared by the Public Lands Foundation to define and clarify the status of federal public lands in America and to answer questions people pose on a daily basis, such as:
     
    • How did the United States acquire the public lands owned collectively by the American people?
    • How did the United States transfer most of the original public lands to state, private and other ownerships?
    • How did the Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the Department of the Interior, become responsible for administering its remaining 245 million acres of public domain lands, now known as the National System of Public Lands?
    • How does federal ownership and management of public domain lands benefit Americans? 
  • Roaring Fork Conservancy created a Citizen's Guide to Riverfront Property that includes tips for protecting these critical green ribbons of life, whether here in Colorado or any riparian area around the world!

  •  

    A prescription for drug-free rivers: uptake of pharmaceuticals by a widespread streamside willow

    Carmen Franks, David Pearce, Stewart Rood

     

    Abstract:

    Following human excretion and limited removal with wastewater treatment, pharmaceuticals are accumulating in rivers worldwide. These chemicals can challenge the health of fish and aquatic organisms and since rivers provide drinking water sources, there is concern for cumulative exposure to humans. In this study, we discovered that sandbar willow (Salix exigua), a predominant riparian shrub along streams throughout North America, has the capacity to quickly remove pharmaceuticals from aqueous solutions. Our study tracked [3 H]- or [14C]-labeled substances including 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2), a synthetic estrogen in oral contraceptives; the antihypertensive, diltiazem (DTZ); and the anti-anxiety drug, diazepam (DZP); and for comparison, atrazine (ATZ), a root-absorbed herbicide. In growth chambers, willow saplings removed 40–80% of the substances from solutions in 24 h. Following uptake, the EE2 and DTZ were retained within the roots, while DZP and ATZ were partly passed on to the shoots. The absorbed EE2 was unextractable and apparently bound to the root tissue, while DTZ, DZP, and ATZ remained largely soluble (extractable). The uptake and translocation of the pharmaceuticals, reflected in the transpiration stream and root concentration factors, were reasonably predicted from their physicochemical properties, including octanol-water partitioning coefficients. These findings suggest the removal of pharmaceuticals as an unrecognized ecosystem service provided by riparian vegetation and especially the inundation tolerant sandbar willow. This encourages the conservation of riparian willows that line riverbanks, to remove pharmaceuticals and other contaminants. This phytoremediation also encourages the preservation of complex, braided channels and islands, which increase the extent of stream shorelines and riparian willows.

     

     

  • The Roadmap for Considering Water for Arizona’s Natural Areas contains information on the current scientific understanding of water for natural areas and existing legal considerations for providing water to natural areas, examples of where natural areas are already included in water management decisions, and an overview of available paths forward for including natural areas alongside human uses.

Ecosystem Stressors

  • The Seven Colorado River Basin States are implementing a proactive program to meet the needs of the Colorado River Basin and to provide continued stewardship of the Colorado River. As part of this program, 12 potential options were evaluated in terms of water quality, technical feasibility, reliability, environmental factors, and permitting considerations.

  • The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study (Study), initiated in January
    2010, was conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) Upper Colorado and
    Lower Colorado regions, and agencies representing the seven Colorado River Basin States.
    As defined in the Plan of Study, the purpose of the Study is to define current and
    future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Basin and the adjacent areas of the
    Basin States that receive Colorado River water over the next 50 years (through 2060), and to
    develop and analyze adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances. The
    Study does not result in a decision as to how future imbalances will or should be addressed.
    Rather, the Study provides a common technical foundation that frames the range of potential
    imbalances that may be faced in the future and the range of solutions that may be considered
    to resolve those imbalances.
  • Based on research conducted on the lower White River in Colorado, it was found that tamarisk establishment enhanced not only sediment deposition that leads to channel narrowing, but also to new vegetation establishment. Plants increased the friction in the channel,thus decreasing water velocity close to plants. Low velocity areas became susceptible to furthervegetation encroachment, particularly if they did not have high velocities for a series of ~4 or more years. As vegetation encroached and changed the shape of the channel, the importance of common and large floods, for vegetation establishment and sediment transport, changed.
     
    Application of this process-based understanding to future flow regimes will help managers anticipate locations along the channel that are susceptible to vegetation encroachment andchanges to channel width.
  • This Information Brief by the National Park Services discusses changes in the Santa Cruz River in southern Arizona. 

  • This report spotlights successful, sustainable and economically sensible steps ten communities are taking to make sure they will have water in the decades to come. 

  • The purpose of the Study, funded by the Bureau of Reclamation, was to define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Basin and the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water over the next 50 years (through 2060), and to develop and analyze adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances.

  • Written by 44 of the field's most prominent scholars and scientists, this volume compiles 25 essays on tamarisk--its biology, ecology, politics, management, and the ethical issues involved with designating a particular species as "good" or "bad". The book analyzes the controversy surrounding tamarisk's role in our ecosystems and what should be done about it.

     

  • This document provides an introduction to environmental flows, models for E-flow recovery, describes rivers in peril and watershed health, and provides recommendations for restoring E-flow. 

  • The U.S. Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center convened a workshop June 23-25, 2015, in Flagstaff, Ariz. for practitioners in restoration science to share general principles, successful restoration practices, and discuss the challenges that face those practicing riparian restoration in the southwestern United States. Presenters from the Colorado River and the Rio Grande basins, offered their perspectives and experiences in restoration at the local, reach and watershed scale. Outcomes of the workshop include this Proceedings volume, which is composed of extended abstracts of most of the presentations given at the workshop, and recommendations or information needs identified by participants. The organization of the Proceedings follows a general progression from local scale restoration to river and watershed scale approaches, and finishes with restoration assessments and monitoring.
     
  • Authors:
    Kent R. Mosher, Heather L. Bateman
     
    Abstract:
    Amphibians and reptiles (herpetofauna) have been linked to specific microhabitat characteristics, microclimates, and water resources in riparian forests. Our objective was to relate variation in herpetofauna abundance to changes in habitat caused by a beetle used for Tamarix biocontrol (Diorhabda carinulata; Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and riparian restoration. During 2013 and 2014, we measured vegetation and monitored herpetofauna via trapping and visual encounter surveys (VES) at locations affected by biocontrol along the Virgin River in the Mojave Desert of the southwestern United States. Twenty-one sites were divided into four riparian stand types based on density and percent cover of dominant trees (Tamarix, Prosopis, Populus, and Salix) and presence or absence of restoration. Restoration activities consisted of mechanically removing non-native trees, transplanting native trees, and restoring hydrologic flows. Restored sites had three times more total lizard and eight times more yellow-backed spiny lizard (Sceloporus uniformis) captures than other stand types. Woodhouse’s toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii) captures were greatest in unrestored and restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites. Results from VES indicated that herpetofauna abundance was greatest in the restored Tam-Pop/Sal site compared with the adjacent unrestored Tam-Pop/Sal site. Tam sites were characterized by having high Tamarix cover, percent canopy cover, and shade. Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites were most similar in habitat to Tam-Pop/Sal sites. Two species of herpetofauna (spiny lizard and toad) were found to prefer habitat components characteristic of restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites. Restored sites likely supported higher abundances of these species because restoration activities reduced canopy cover, increased native tree density, and restored surface water.
  • The Roadmap for Considering Water for Arizona’s Natural Areas contains information on the current scientific understanding of water for natural areas and existing legal considerations for providing water to natural areas, examples of where natural areas are already included in water management decisions, and an overview of available paths forward for including natural areas alongside human uses.

  • This document presents a statewide assessment on the potential future influences of a changing climate on species and ecosystems of particular importance to the Bureau of Land Management within Colorado, with the goal of facilitating development of the best possible climate change adaptations to meet future conditions. 
     
     
     
     
     
  • Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration (IHA) is a software program, developed by The Nature Conservancy, that provides useful information for those trying to understand the hydrologic impacts of human activities or trying to develop environmental flow recommendations for water managers. Nearly 2,000 water resource managers, hydrologists, ecologists, researchers and policy makers from around the world have used this program to assess how rivers, lakes and groundwater basins have been affected by human activities over time – or to evaluate future water management scenarios.
     
  •  
     
    New Findings on the Climate Sensitivity of the Water Balance of the Upper Colorado River Basin
     
    Chris Milly1
     
    1 Integrated Modeling and Prediction Division, U.S. Geological Survey
     
    The structure and function of rivers and riparian environments depend on many factors, and these include both climate and human disturbances. Under a changing climate, river restoration efforts may benefit from information about the future trajectory of climate and its impact on water balance. Because of the central role played by the Colorado River for water supply in the Southwest, many scientific investigations have been undertaken over the years in an effort to define the climate sensitivity of runoff in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB). These investigations have yielded frustratingly inconsistent results. We found that the widely varying estimates of sensitivity of UCRB runoff to climate can be reconciled by recognizing certain shortcomings in the methods that have been used until now. By avoiding these shortcomings, we have considerably narrowed the uncertainty in climate sensitivity of the UCRB. Our analysis shows that (and, importantly, explains why) the amount of reduction in flow that results from atmospheric warming is strongly dependent on the seasonal cycle of snow cover; this finding may be useful in predicting which sub-basins within the UCRB are least/most sensitive to warming.
     
     
     
  • Author(s): Steven W. Carothers; R. Roy Johnson; Deborah M. Finch; Kenneth J. Kingsley; Robert H. Hamre
     
    In the Preface to volume 1, we discuss the development of riparian ecology as one of the newest of ecological fields that gained significant momentum in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the general “riparian movement” in the United States. The field expanded rapidly throughout the latter half of the 1900s. Volume 2 involves more than two dozen authors - most with decades of experience - who expand upon riparian and other topics introduced in volume 1. Two important recent developments are global climate change and impacts of introduced tamarisk leaf beetles (Diorhabda spp.) in the American West. Other chapters in volume 2 that provide current information evaluate the losses of riparian habitat, including “extirpation” of a large number of mesquite bosques (woodlands) in the Southwest; the restoration of riparian ecosystems damaged by anthropogenic activities; the importance of a watershed; and the importance of riparian ecosystems to recreation. The combination of volumes 1 and 2 examines the evolving understanding of scientific implications and anthropogenic threats to those ecosystems from Euro-American settlement of the region to present. >> Volume 1 is also available in Treesearch: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/57341
  •  
     
     
    Riparian System Responses to Fire and Flood Disturbance in Capulin Canyon, Bandelier National Monument, NM
     
    Jamie Gottlieb1*, Patrick Shafroth2, Michael Scott3, Craig Allen4
     
    1Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA; jmg862@nau.edu
    2U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins, CO, USA; shafrothp@usgs.gov
    3Faculty Affiliate, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA; scottmikeski@gmail.com
    4U.S. Geological Survey, Los Alamos, NM, USA; craig_allen@usgs.gov
     
     
    Disturbance is a driver of riparian ecosystem dynamics, and riparian areas are typically resilient to disturbance events.  However, responses to extreme disturbances are not well-documented.  We examined riparian responses to extreme disturbance in a montane canyon in northern New Mexico.  Multiple severe fires burned extensive areas of live and dead organic material in the eastern Jemez Mountains between 1996 and 2011.  Runoff, stormflow discharges, and sediment transport increased greatly after the fires. Capulin Creek flows through a canyon which drains part of the east Jemez Mountains and was severely burned in 2011 and severely flooded in 2013.  Here we report results of repeat sampling of canyon bottom geomorphology and riparian vegetation along six transects in Capulin canyon, sampled before (in 2006) and after (2019) the 2011-2013 fire and flood disturbances.  Sampling included repeat topographic and landform surveys along six monumented cross-sections to determine geomorphic change and woody vegetation cover, basal area, and stem density by species.  We found a dramatic decrease in riparian vegetation between 2006 and 2019.  For example, the mean total basal area (per transect), in 2006 was 17.35 ± 12.92 m2/ha (mean ± standard deviation); whereas in 2019 it was only 0.32 ± 0.49 m2/ha.  Pinus ponderosa, Alnus oblongifolia, Acer negundo, and Juniperus scopulorum accounted for the majority of the basal area pre disturbance, with mean basal areas of 10.15 m2/ha, 4.57 m2/ha, 1.66 m2/ha, and 1.55 m2/ha, respectively.  Post-fire and -flood, mean basal areas for P. ponderosa, A. oblongifolia, and J. scopulorum were all 0 and for A. negundo it was 0.23 ± 0.51 m2/ha.  Other relatively abundant species in 2019, were Quercus gambelii and Salix lutea with mean basal areas of 0.075 ± 0.17 m2/ha and 0.01 ± 0.03 m2/ha, respectively.  Post-disturbance cross-sections revealed significant erosion and a shift from a trapezoidal channel/valley geometry to a wider, braided geometry.  Our results will help to inform future management decisions regarding potential restoration actions in highly disturbed canyon ecosystems at Bandelier National Monument and elsewhere around the West. 
     
     
     
  • A great deal of effort has been devoted to developing guidance for stream restoration and rehabilitation. The available resources are diverse, reflecting the wide ranging approaches used and expertise required to develop stream restoration projects. To help practitioners sort through all of this information, a technical note has been developed to provide a guide to the wealth of information available. The document structure is primarily a series of short literature reviews followed by a hyperlinked reference list for the reader to find more information on each topic. The primary topics incorporated into this guidance include general methods, an overview of stream processes and restoration, case studies, and methods for data compilation, preliminary assessments, and field data collection. Analysis methods and tools, and planning and design guidance for specific restoration features, are also provided. This technical note is a bibliographic repository of information available to assist professionals with the process of planning, analyzing, and designing stream restoration and rehabilitation projects. 
  • This bibliography is a compendium of state-of-knowledge publications about the threats affecting western U.S. riparian ecosystems. The bibliography is ordered alphabetically and the type of threats discussed in each publication is highlighted. These threats include agriculture, climate change, dam construction, disease, drought, invasive species, fire, floods, flow regulation, forest harvesting, grazing, groundwater depletion, insects, mining, recreation, roads, water diversions, urbanization, and water quality.
  • This biodiversity scorecard provides a snapshot of the current conservation status of Colorado's rare and imperiled species, and its most widespread ecological systems. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program
    took a systematic and repeatable approach to these assessments, focusing on: quality, quantity, threats, and level of current protection. Resulting scores for these factors were then combined to produce an overall conservation status score. Successful implementation of a comprehensive conservation strategy should result in maintaining or improving these scores over time.
  • Abstract:
     
    Successful rangeland management maintains or restores the ability of riparian plant communities to capture sediment and stabilize streambanks. Management actions are most effective when they are focused on the vegetated streambank closest to the active channel, the greenline, where vegetation most influences erosion, deposition, landform, and water quality. Effective grazing management plans balance grazing periods, especially those with more time for re-grazing, with opportunities for plant growth by adjusting grazing timing, duration, intensity, and/or variation of use and recovery.
     
    Emphasizing either: a) schedules of grazing and recovery, or b) limited utilization level within the same growing season, is a fundamental choice which drives management actions, grazing criteria, and methods for short-term monitoring. To meet resource objectives and allow riparian recovery, managers use many tools and practices that allow rather than impede recovery. Economic decisions are based on both evaluation of investments and ongoing or variable costs, themselves justified by reduced expenses, increased production, or improved resource values. Ongoing management adjusts actions using short-term monitoring focused on chosen strategies. Long-term monitoring refocuses management to target priority areas first for needed functions, and then for desired resource values. Once riparian functions are established, management enables further recovery and resilience and provides opportunities for a greater variety of grazing strategies.
  •  
    Author(s): R. Roy Johnson; Steven W. Carothers; Deborah M. Finch; Kenneth J. Kingsley; John T. Stanley
     
    Fifty years ago, riparian habitats were not recognized for their extensive and critical contributions to wildlife and the ecosystem function of watersheds. This changed as riparian values were identified and documented, and the science of riparian ecology developed steadily. Papers in this volume range from the more mesic northwestern United States to the arid Southwest and Mexico. More than two dozen authors - most with decades of experience - review the origins of riparian science in the western United States, document what is currently known about riparian ecosystems, and project future needs. Topics are widespread and include: interactions with fire, climate change, and declining water; impacts from exotic species; unintended consequences of biological control; the role of small mammals; watershed response to beavers; watershed and riparian changes; changes below large dams; water birds of the Colorado River Delta; and terrestrial vertebrates of mesquite bosques. Appendices and references chronicle the field’s literature, authors, "riparian pioneers," and conferences. >> Volume 2 is also available on Treesearch: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/60500
  •  
     
     
    Riparian Vegetation Response to High-Magnitude Dam Releases on the Dolores River, SW Colorado
     
    Cynthia Dott1*, Julie Knudson2*
     
    1 Department of Biology, Fort Lewis College, Durango CO USA; dott_c@fortlewis.edu  
    2 Purgatoire Watershed Partnership, Trinidad CO US; jknudson@purgatoirepartners.org
      
     
    The Dolores River has a unique history of flow management, including truly unprecedented variation over the last three years due to large snowpack and historic drought in back-to-back years.    
    The Dolores provides habitat for rare native fish species and supports unique assemblages of native riparian vegetation.  McPhee Dam, completed in 1985, reduced spring snowmelt-dominated high flows >50%, from 3000-8000 cfs pre-dam to 800-2000 cfs post-dam, but also raised late summer baseflows.  In drought years, no peak occurs and flows vary from 15-80 cfs.  Since dam completion, only three years have had sufficient snowmelt to allow releases from McPhee that reached magnitudes of 4000 cfs: 1993, 2005 and 2017 (the 2019 peak was nearly 3500 cfs).  Because of reduced peak flows and multiple years of drought and low flow, the banks of the lower Dolores have become armored by vegetation – primarily willows (Salix exigua) and giant reed grass (Phragmites australis) and also tamarisk (Tamarix spp)—with simultaneous losses of bare ground and potential cottonwood seedling germination sites. In 2017 a high magnitude, long duration spill of 4000 cfs was planned to support native fish and riparian ecosystems below the dam.  A consortium of scientists worked with managers to plan for pre- and post-spill monitoring.  We hypothesized that bank scouring and vegetation removal would occur, along with sediment deposition on the floodplain.  We re-occupied several sites below the dam to allow us to compare vegetation structure and composition pre- and post-peak flow release.  Data collected in 2010 showed average willow stem densities of 34.3/m2 at one site below the dam compared to 1/m2 above the dam. In many reaches, mature cottonwoods have been in decline and new cottonwood establishment is limited.  If the 2017 high flow was sufficient to emulate pre-dam floods, we predicted willow stem densities would decline, cover by bare ground would increase, and cottonwood seedlings would establish.  Because of cooler than anticipated spring temperatures, the high flow release was shortened and 4000 cfs flows were maintained for only 3 days, though the total duration of the spill was longer than expected. While we observed no significant changes in willow stem densities post-spill, we did see an increase in cover of bare ground.  Timing of post-spill drawdown was apparently wrong for cottonwood seedling establishment on new open sites in 2017, but increased water table recharge due to high flows benefits established cottonwoods over the long run.  The fact that 2017 was followed by the exceptional drought of 2018, and then another year of prolonged high discharge in 2019 is also likely to have long-term consequences for riparian habitat on the Dolores River.
     
     

Why Restore

  •  
     
    Overview:
     
    Our rivers are in crisis and the need for river restoration has never been more urgent. Water security and biodiversity indices for all of the world’s major rivers have declined due to pollution, diversions, impoundments, fragmented flows, introduced and invasive species, and many other abuses.
     
    Developing successful restoration responses are essential. Renewing Our Rivers addresses this need head-on with examples of how to design and implement stream-corridor restoration projects. Based on the experiences of seasoned professionals, Renewing Our Rivers provides stream restoration practitioners the main steps to develop successful and viable stream restoration projects that last. Ecologists, geomorphologists, and hydrologists from dryland regions of Australia, Mexico, and the United States share case studies and key lessons learned for successful restoration and renewal of our most vital resource.
     
    The aim of this guidebook is to offer essential restoration guidance that allows a start-to-finish overview of what it takes to bring back a damaged stream corridor. Chapters cover planning, such emerging themes as climate change and environmental flow, the nuances of implementing restoration tactics, and monitoring restoration results. Renewing Our Rivers provides community members, educators, students, natural resource practitioners, experts, and scientists broader perspectives on how to move the science of restoration to practical success.
     
  • Bringing Birds Home is a manual that describes how to proactively improve riparian habitat for bird species in Mesa County, Colorado.  

    This guide was made possible by a grant from the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and was produced by RiversEdge West, with help from the Grand Valley Audubon Society, Tucson Audubon Society, and Audubon Arizona.

     
  • Provided by Your Remarkable Riparian, this webpage provides a wealth of information about riparian restoration, including mini-modules, workshops, and presentations. 

  •  

    A prescription for drug-free rivers: uptake of pharmaceuticals by a widespread streamside willow

    Carmen Franks, David Pearce, Stewart Rood

     

    Abstract:

    Following human excretion and limited removal with wastewater treatment, pharmaceuticals are accumulating in rivers worldwide. These chemicals can challenge the health of fish and aquatic organisms and since rivers provide drinking water sources, there is concern for cumulative exposure to humans. In this study, we discovered that sandbar willow (Salix exigua), a predominant riparian shrub along streams throughout North America, has the capacity to quickly remove pharmaceuticals from aqueous solutions. Our study tracked [3 H]- or [14C]-labeled substances including 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2), a synthetic estrogen in oral contraceptives; the antihypertensive, diltiazem (DTZ); and the anti-anxiety drug, diazepam (DZP); and for comparison, atrazine (ATZ), a root-absorbed herbicide. In growth chambers, willow saplings removed 40–80% of the substances from solutions in 24 h. Following uptake, the EE2 and DTZ were retained within the roots, while DZP and ATZ were partly passed on to the shoots. The absorbed EE2 was unextractable and apparently bound to the root tissue, while DTZ, DZP, and ATZ remained largely soluble (extractable). The uptake and translocation of the pharmaceuticals, reflected in the transpiration stream and root concentration factors, were reasonably predicted from their physicochemical properties, including octanol-water partitioning coefficients. These findings suggest the removal of pharmaceuticals as an unrecognized ecosystem service provided by riparian vegetation and especially the inundation tolerant sandbar willow. This encourages the conservation of riparian willows that line riverbanks, to remove pharmaceuticals and other contaminants. This phytoremediation also encourages the preservation of complex, braided channels and islands, which increase the extent of stream shorelines and riparian willows.

     

     

  • The objective of the Healthy Rivers Assessment, authored by The Nature Conservancy, is to serve as a resource and guidance document to provide current freshwater ecosystem baselines and inform project design and prioritization.
     
    This analysis offers a comprehensive assessment of freshwater ecosystems in Colorado, scaled to the HUC 12 subwatershed level, and offers insight into opportunities to maintain, protect, and restore rivers and streams throughout Colorado. 

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mission is to advance the restoration of riparian lands through collaboration, education, and technical assistance.

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