Environmental Management

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 1-15

First online:

Evaluating stream restoration projects

  • G. Mathias KondolfAffiliated withDepartment of Landscape Architecture, University of California
  • , Elisabeth R. MicheliAffiliated withDepartment of Landscape Architecture, University of California

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River and stream restoration projects are increasingly numerous but rarely subjected to systematic postproject evaluation. Without conducting such evaluation and widely disseminating the results, lessons will not be learned from successes and failures, and the field of river restoration cannot advance. Postproject evaluation must be incorporated into the initial design of each project, with the choice of evaluation technique based directly upon the specific project goals against which performance will be evaluated. We emphasize measurement of geomorphic characteristics, as these constitute the physical framework supporting riparian and aquatic ecosystems. Techniques for evaluating other components are briefly discussed, especially as they relate to geomorphic variables. Where possible, geomorphic, hydrologic, and ecological variables should be measured along the same transects. In general, postproject monitoring should continue for at least a decade, with surveys conducted after each flood above a predetermined threshold. Project design should be preceded by a historical study documenting former channel conditions to provide insights into the processes suggest earlier, potentially stable channel configurations as possible design models.

Key Words

stream restoration Riparian vegetation Flood control Aquatic habitat