Standards for ecologically successful river restoration
With growing worldwide consensus on the social and ecological importance of rivers and the multiple services they provide, more and more river and stream restoration projects are currently attracting incredible financial and agency support. However, there is little agreement on what the success of a restoration project actually means. The authors argue that although there are many different ways to judge a restoration project as successful using social factors such as stakeholder satisfaction or advances in the science and practice of river restoration, in order to distinguish a project as a restoration success the project must also provide ecological successes. The authors put forward five criteria that they believe must be met in order for a river restoration project to be measured as ecologically successful. These “standards for ecologically successful river restoration” include: a project design based on a specified reference of a more dynamic, healthy river, a measurable improvement in the ecological condition of the site, a more self-sustaining system that is resilient to external perturbations where by only minimal follow-up maintenance is needed, a construction phase where no lasting harm is imposed on the ecosystem, and, finally, a pre and post assessment completed and made available to the public. The authors support their criteria by suggesting standards in which to evaluate the five criteria and give indicators of their success.
Although the authors focus on criteria to judge the ecological success of river restoration projects they recognize that for river restoration projects to be the most effective they must achieve a combination of stakeholder success and contribute to the scientific knowledge and management practices in addition to ecological success. In order to advance our understanding of how best to restore streams and rivers, make meaningful judgments on the success of river restoration projects, and influence the expectations and goals of stakeholders we will need broad input from the international scientific community on the standards of success and the acceptance of these standards by those that implement river restoration projects. The authors assert that this would ideally involve the creation of national and international programs to evaluate ecological success in restoration. This paper gives a good overview of the issues practitioners, implementing agencies and scientist face when attempting to look at the success of river restoration projects while providing criteria for addressing these issues.
(image credit: by Chris Benton, Cordonices Creek restoration, October 2004)