community watershed restoration since 1983

Science and Restoration – Course Concept

Restoration has had mixed success.This course will consider factors that make restoration challenging, and what can be done about them.In particular, the course will emphasize the importance of taking the geomorphic and ecological context of potential restoration sites in account, and of recognizing that because our knowledge of ecosystems and their environments is incomplete, restoration projects are necessarily experiments.  Because restoration projects are experiments, part of the challenge is to make them informative experiments.

The emphasis in this course will be on stream restoration, but upland influences on the streams will be given considerable attention. Morning talks will provide background information and briefly review salient ecological and geomorphological concepts.  The field trips will visit sites representing a range of stream habitats, from a small headwater tributary to the Mattole River estuary.  We will have time to visit only one upland site,near the coast, although the Mattole Restoration Council is heavily involved with upland restoration as well.

In some cases, it is easy to see why restoration projects fail; failing to take the context of the project properly into account is a common reason. The Tuesday field trip will look at a spectacular example (Cuneo Creek). Or, restoration projects may be built where they are not needed.  The Monday field trip will look at a stream reach (lower North Fork Mattole River) where there has been much recent bank erosion and channel change, especially last winter, so that the channel looks raw and disturbed.  We will consider whether, and if so, where, remedial work would be appropriate.

The field trip Wednesday will tour a restoration project on a headwater tributary on BLM land that provides nursery habitat for juvenile coho salmon.  This project has been unusually well monitored, and the site has been documented in several HSU theses.  We will consider the experimental design underlying the monitoring, and also geomorphic context of the site, the channel forming processes that should be expected there, (are the channel banks alluvial deposits, debris flow deposit, or something in between?) and their implications for the objectives of the project.  The site will also provide a focus for a discussion of stream foodwebs, and an opportunity to discuss diversion forbearance as a method for summer flow restoration.

Thursday morning, we will present current thinking about estuaries as habitat for juvenile salmoinds, and describe the Mattole estuary.  In the field, we will visit excavated off-channel habitat and constructed log-jams built with whole trees carried to the site by helicopter, intended to benefit juvenile salmonids, and associated riparian plantings.  Again, we will discuss experimental desig

n and monitoring, as well as challenges of demonstrating the biological effectiveness of such restoration projects.  Then, we will drive up on the ridge south of the estuary to visit a coastal prairie restoration site, and view the estuary from above.

In discussion on Friday we will try to knit common threads from the several field trips in to a coherent whole, and consider how the roles of science and practice in restoration can be reconciled through adaptive management.  Finally, we will ask for feedback on the course.

Suggested course readings.