Environmental Management

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 933–945

Projecting Cumulative Benefits of Multiple River Restoration Projects: An Example from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River System in California

  • G. Mathias Kondolf
  • Paul L. Angermeier
  • Kenneth Cummins
  • Thomas Dunne
  • Michael Healey
  • Wim Kimmerer
  • Peter B. Moyle
  • Dennis Murphy
  • Duncan Patten
  • Steve Railsback
  • Denise J. Reed
  • Robert Spies
  • Robert Twiss


Despite increasingly large investments, the potential ecological effects of river restoration programs are still small compared to the degree of human alterations to physical and ecological function. Thus, it is rarely possible to “restore” pre-disturbance conditions; rather restoration programs (even large, well-funded ones) will nearly always involve multiple small projects, each of which can make some modest change to selected ecosystem processes and habitats. At present, such projects are typically selected based on their attributes as individual projects (e.g., consistency with programmatic goals of the funders, scientific soundness, and acceptance by local communities), and ease of implementation. Projects are rarely prioritized (at least explicitly) based on how they will cumulatively affect ecosystem function over coming decades. Such projections require an understanding of the form of the restoration response curve, or at least that we assume some plausible relations and estimate cumulative effects based thereon. Drawing on our experience with the CALFED Bay-Delta Ecosystem Restoration Program in California, we consider potential cumulative system-wide benefits of a restoration activity extensively implemented in the region: isolating/filling abandoned floodplain gravel pits captured by rivers to reduce predation of outmigrating juvenile salmon by exotic warmwater species inhabiting the pits. We present a simple spreadsheet model to show how different assumptions about gravel pit bathymetry and predator behavior would affect the cumulative benefits of multiple pit-filling and isolation projects, and how these insights could help managers prioritize which pits to fill.


River restoration Chinook salmon Sacramento River San Joaquin River Restoration response curves Gravel augmentation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Mathias Kondolf
    • 1
  • Paul L. Angermeier
    • 2
  • Kenneth Cummins
    • 3
  • Thomas Dunne
    • 4
  • Michael Healey
    • 5
  • Wim Kimmerer
    • 6
  • Peter B. Moyle
    • 7
  • Dennis Murphy
    • 8
  • Duncan Patten
    • 9
  • Steve Railsback
    • 10
  • Denise J. Reed
    • 11
  • Robert Spies
    • 12
  • Robert Twiss
    • 13
  1. 1.Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental PlanningUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.United States Geological Survey, Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.California Cooperative Fish Research UnitHumboldt State UniversityArcataUSA
  4. 4.Bren School of Environmental Science and ManagementUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  5. 5.Institute for Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  6. 6.Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental StudiesSan Francisco State UniversityTiburonUSA
  7. 7.Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation BiologyUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  8. 8.Department of BiologyUniversity of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA
  9. 9.Department of Land Resources and Environmental SciencesMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  10. 10.Lang, Railsback & Assoc.ArcataUSA
  11. 11.Department of Geology and GeophysicsUniversity of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  12. 12.Applied Marine SciencesLittle RiverUSA
  13. 13.RossUSA

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