Environmental Management

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 547–557 | Cite as

Restoration of riparian forest using irrigation, artificial disturbance, and natural seedfall

  • Jonathan M. Friedman
  • Michael L. Scott
  • William M. LewisJr


In interior western North America, many riparian forests dominated by cottonwood and willow are failing to reproduce downstream of dams. We tested the hypothesis that establishment is now prevented by absence of the bare, moist substrate formerly provided by floods and channel movement. Along Boulder Creek, a dammed stream in the Colorado plains, we tested the effects of disturbance (sod removal), irrigation, and addition of seed on the establishment of seedings of plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides subsp.monilifera) and peachleaf willow (Salix amygdaloides). In unirrigated, undisturbed plots, mean cottonwood density was 0.03 seedlings/m2. Irrigation or disturbance alone produced mean cottonwood densities of 0.39 and 0.75 seedlings/m2. Plots that were both irrigated and disturbed produced a mean cottonwood density of 10.3 seedlings/m2. The effects of irrigation and disturbance on cottonwood establishment were significant (P<0.005); added seed had no significant effect (P=0.78). The few cottonwood seedlings in unirrigated plots were in low positions susceptible to scour by future moderate flows. We conclude that cottonwood establishment along Boulder Creek is limited by the scarcity of bare, moist sites safe from future scour. Establishment of peachleaf willow was significantly affected only by disturbance; daily sprinkler irrigation did not provide sufficient moisture to increase survival of this species. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of restoring plains cottonwood forests using natural seedfall, even where only widely scattered adult trees are present. Because use of natural seedfall conserves the genetic makeup of the local population, this method may be preferable to the use of imported cuttings.

Key Words

Disturbance Flood Natural seedfall Peachleaf willow Plains cottonwood Restoration Riparian Seeding establishment 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Asplund, K. K., and M. T. Gooch. 1988. Geomorphology and the distributional ecology of fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii) in a desert riparian canyon.Desert Plants 9:17–27.Google Scholar
  2. Bessey, C. E. 1904. The number and weight of cottonwood seeds.Science 20:118–119.Google Scholar
  3. Bradley, C. E., and D. G. Smith. 1986. Plains cottonwood recruitment and survival on a prairie meandering river floodplain, Milk River, southern Alberta and northern Montana.Canadian Journal of Botany 64:1433–1442.Google Scholar
  4. Bravard, J., C. Amoros, and G. Patou. 1986. Impact of civil engineering works on the successions of communities in a fluvial system.Oikos 47:92–111.Google Scholar
  5. Brinson, M. M., B. L., Swift, R. C., Plantico, and J. S. Barclay, 1981. Riparian ecosystems: Their ecology and status. United States Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report 81/17, 155 pp.Google Scholar
  6. Burns, R. M., and B. H. Honkala, (technical coordinators). 1990. Silvics of North America, Vol. 2, Hardwoods. Agriculture Handbook 654, United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 877 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Colorado Climate Center. 1992a. Temperature summary for Boulder, Substation number 50848, 40 years ending in 1987. Colorado Climate Center, Fort Collins, 2 pp.Google Scholar
  8. Colorado Climate Center. 1992b. Summary of monthly climatic data for Boulder, Substation number 50848, Division 4, 1961–1990. Colorado Climate Center, Fort Collins. 2 pp.Google Scholar
  9. Engstrom, A. 1948. Growing cottonwood from seed.Journal of Forestry 46:130–132.Google Scholar
  10. Everitt, B. L., 1968. Use of the cottonwood in an investigation of the recent history of a flood plain.American Journal of Science 266:417–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Facelli, J. M., and S. T. A. Pickett. 1991. Plant litter: its dynamics and effects on plant community structure.Botanical Review 57:1–32.Google Scholar
  12. Fenner, P., W. W. Brady, and D. R. Patton. 1984. Observations on seeds and seedlings of Fremont cottonwood.Desert Plants 6:55–58.Google Scholar
  13. Friedman, J. M. 1993. Vegetation establishment and channel narrowing along a Great-Plains stream following a catastrophic flood. PhD dissertation in environmental, population and organismic biology. On file, University of Colorado at Boulder. University Microfilsms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 156 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Friedman, J. M., W. R. Osterkamp, and W. M. Lewis, Jr. 1995. The role of vegetation and bed-level fluctuations in the process of channel narrowing following a catastrophic flood.Geomorphology (in press).Google Scholar
  15. Gee, G. W., and J. W. Bauder, 1986. Particle-size analysis. Pages 383–411in A. Klute (ed.), Methods of soil analysis, Part 1. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  16. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, 1392 pp.Google Scholar
  17. Grime, J. P. 1977 Evidence for the existence of three primary strategies in plants and its relevance to ecological and evolutionary theory.American Naturalist 111:1169–1184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Johnson, R. L., 1965. Regenerating cottonwood from natural seedfall.Journal of Forestry 63:33–36.Google Scholar
  19. Johnson, W. C. 1992. Dams and riparian forests: case study from the upper Missouri River.Rivers 3:229–242.Google Scholar
  20. Johnson, W. C. 1994. Woodland expansion in the Platte River, Nebraska: patterns and causes.Ecological Monographs 64:45–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johnson, W. C., R. L. Burgess, and W. R. Keammerer, 1976. Forest overstory vegetation and environment on the Missouri River floodplain in North Dakota.Ecological Monographs 46:59–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Knopf, F. L., 1985. Significance of riparian vegetation to breeding birds across an altitudinal cline. Pages 105–111in R. A. Johnson, C. D. Ziebell, D. R. Patten, P. F. Ffolliot, and R. H. Hamre (technical coordinators), Riparian ecosystems and their management: Reconciling conflicting uses. United States Forest Service General Technical Report RM-120.Google Scholar
  23. Krasny, M. E., K. A. Vogt, and J. C. Zasada. 1988. Establishment of four Salicaceae species on river bars in interior Alaska.Holarctic Ecology 11:210–219.Google Scholar
  24. Lindauer, I. E. 1983. A comparison of the plant communities of the South Platte and Arkansas River drainages in eastern Colorado.The Southwestern Naturalist 28:249–259.Google Scholar
  25. Luken, J. O. 1990 Directing ecological succession. Chapman and Hall, New York, 251 pp.Google Scholar
  26. Madole, R. F. 1991. Quaternary geology of the Northern Great Plains, Colorado Piedmont Section. Pages 456–462in R. B. Morrison (ed.), Quaternary nonglacial geology; conterminous United States. Geological Society of America, The Geology of North America. Vol. K-2, Boulder, Colorado.Google Scholar
  27. McLeod, K. W., and J. K. McPherson. 1973. Factors limiting the distribution ofSalix nigra.Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 100:102–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moss, E. H. 1938. Longevity of seed and establishment of seedlings in species ofPopulus.Botanical Gazette 99:529–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1992. Climatological data. Colorado, April–October, Vol. 97.Google Scholar
  30. Ohmart, R. D., B. W. Anderson, and W. C. Hunter. 1988. The ecology of the lower Colorado River from Davis Dam to the Mexico-United States international boundary: A community profile. United States Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report 85(7.19), 296 pp.Google Scholar
  31. Rood, S. B. and J. M. Mahoney. 1990. Collapse of riparian poplar forests downstream from dams in western prairies: Probable causes and prospects for mitigation.Environmental Management 14:451–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sacchi, C. F., and P. W. Price. 1992. The relative roles of abiotic and biotic factors in seedling demography of arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis: Salicaceae).American Journal of Botany 79:395–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schreiner, E. J. 1974.Populus L. poplar. Pages 645–655in C. S. Schopmeyer (technical coordinator), Seeds of woody plants in the United States, United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook Number 450.Google Scholar
  34. Scott, M. L., M. A. Wondzell, and G. T. Auble. 1993. Hydrograph characteristics relevant to the establishment and growth of western riparian vegetation. Pages 237–246in H. J. Morel-Seytoux (ed.), Proceedings of the thirteenth annual American Geophysical Union Hydrology Days. Hydrology Days Publications, Atherton, California.Google Scholar
  35. Scott, M. L., J. M. Friedman, and G. T. Auble, 1995. Fluvial process and the establishment of bottomland trees.Geomorphology (in press).Google Scholar
  36. Segelquist, C. A., M. L. Scott, and G. T. Auble. 1993. Establishment ofPopulus deltoides under simulated alluvial groundwater declines.American Midland Naturalist 130: 274–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shafroth, P. B., M. L. Scott, J. M. Friedman, and R. D. Laven. 1994. Establishment, sex structure and breeding system of an exotic riparian willow.Salix x rubens. American Midland Naturalist 132:159–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Walker, L. R., J. C. Zasada, and F. S. Chapin, III. 1986. The role of life history processes in primary succession on an Alaskan floodplain.Ecology 67:1243–1253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ware, G. H., and W. T. Penfound. 1949. The vegetation of the lower levels of the floodplain of the South Canadian River in central Oklahoma.Ecology 30:478–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. White, P. S. 1979. Pattern, process, and natural disturbance in vegetation.The Botanical Review 45:229–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wilkinson, L., 1989. SYSTAT: The system for statistics. SYSTAT, Inc., Evanston, Illinois.Google Scholar
  42. Williams, G. P., and M. G. Wolman. 1984. Downstream effects of dams on alluvial rivers. United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 1286, 83 pp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan M. Friedman
    • 1
  • Michael L. Scott
    • 1
  • William M. LewisJr
    • 2
  1. 1.National Biological ServiceMidcontinent Ecological Science CenterFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental, Population and Organismic BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations