, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 235-245
Date: 13 Feb 2010

Landscape scale assessment of stream channel and riparian habitat restoration needs

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Human modifications of streams and rivers have caused extensive stream channel and riparian degradation. Cost-effective, rapid assessment tools can be used to better manage such areas by identifying the status of habitats for restoration planning and protection. We used a spatially explicit, reach-scale geographic information system modeling strategy to examine stream channel and riparian condition and prioritize restoration actions. The stream channel condition index uses information on land use, road and railroad density, and sinuosity. The riparian condition index uses calculations of percent forest, patch density, and convexity based on land cover in the floodplain. Reaches were classified into restoration categories based on stream channel and riparian condition model results, land ownership, slope, position in the subwatershed, and adjacency to high-quality habitat. We compared modeled restoration priority rankings with those in the management plan for the East Credit subwatershed in Ontario, Canada. Predicted stream channel restoration priority rankings matched field-based classifications for 86% of the reaches in the East Credit subwatershed. Predicted riparian restoration priority rankings matched field-based classifications for 81% of the reaches. Our methods replicate with fairly good accuracy the results obtained using intensive field surveys and stakeholder input. Managers can use these cost-effective strategy development tools to identify candidate reaches for further study and prioritize stream channel and riparian restoration actions over large regions.