Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 535–562 | Cite as

Learning about restoration of urban ecosystems: a case study integrating public participation, stormwater management, and ecological research

  • Cassie J. Herringshaw
  • Janette R. Thompson
  • Timothy W. Stewart


Restoration of ecosystem functions in urban environments is made challenging by 1) a public that often lacks understanding of ecological principles, 2) inadequate evidence of the effectiveness of restoration practices, and 3) difficulty integrating social and biophysical factors in studies of urban ecosystems. This paper describes a case study in which potential solutions to these challenges were explored. We facilitated collaborative learning through public participation in the design and implementation of an urban riparian buffer along a headwater stream in a neighborhood park, a process that was informed by ecological research. Learning outcomes were evaluated using surveys and qualitative assessment of discussion. Results indicated that participants’ knowledge about water quality problems associated with urbanization, stormwater, and nonpoint-source pollution increased, familiarity with stormwater management practices increased, and perceptions about the importance of stream ecosystem functions changed. In-stream monitoring of sediment delivery, as well as direct measurements of buffer infiltration capacity, provided early evidence of buffer effectiveness in prevention of sediment inputs to the stream and absorption of runoff from surrounding surfaces. This study provides a useful model for integration of collaborative learning through participation, ecological restoration, and ecological research in an urban setting. Elements deemed essential to success of this model included an opportunity for dialog focused on a specific natural feature, sustained interaction between participants and researchers, opportunities for hands-on participation by urban residents, and flexibility in restoration practice installation.


Urban ecology Urban stream Public participation Urban riparian buffer 


  1. Alberti M, Marzluff JM, Shulenberger E, Bradley G, Ryan C, Zumbrunnen C (2003) Integrating humans into ecology: opportunities and challenges for studying urban ecosystems. Biosci 53:1169–1179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander GG, Allan JD (2007) Ecological success in stream restoration: case studies from the Midwestern United States. Environ Manag 40:245–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnold C, Gibbons J (1994) Impacts of development on waterways. In: NEMO: Nonpoint education for municipal officials. University of Connecticut. Available http://www.saratogastormwater.org/Residential%20ED/on%20line%20resc/Post-Con/Impacts%20of%20Development.pdf. Accessed 1 Sep 2006
  4. Bernhardt ES, Palmer MA, Allan JD, Alexander G, Barnas K, Brooks S, Carr J, Clayton S, Dahm C, Follstad-Shah J, Galat D, Gloss S, Goodwin P, Hart D, Hassett B, Jenkinson R, Katz S, Kondolf GM, Lake PS, Lave R, Meyer JL, O’donnell TK, Pagano L, Powell B, Sudduth E (2005) Synthesizing U.S. river restoration efforts. Sci 308:636–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bernhardt ES, Band LE, Walsh CJ, Berke PE (2008) Understanding, managing, and minimizing urban impacts on surface water nitrogen loading. Ann NY Acad Sci 1134:61–96CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Blakely TJ, Harding JS (2005) Longitudinal patterns in benthic communities in an urban stream under restoration. NZJ Mar Freshw Res 39:17–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boone CG, Cadenasso ML, Grove JM, Schwarz K, Buckley GL (2009) Landscape, vegetation characteristics, and group identity in an urban and suburban watershed: why the 60 s matter. Urban Ecosyst Available doi:10.1007/s11252-009-0118-7. Accessed 7 Jul 2010
  8. Casagrande DG, Hope D, Farley-Metzger E, Cook W, Yabiku S, Redman C (2007) Problem and opportunity: integrating anthropology, ecology and policy through adaptive experimentation in the urban U.S. Southwest. Hum Organ 55:125–139Google Scholar
  9. Cheng AS, Daniels SE (2003) Examining the interaction between geographic scale and ways of knowing in ecosystem management: a case study of place-based collaborative planning. For Sci 46:841–854Google Scholar
  10. Colaizzi P (1978) Psychological research as the phenomenologist views it. In: Valle R, King M (eds) Existential-phenomenological alternatives for psychology. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 48–70Google Scholar
  11. CTRE (2008) Small storm hydrology. Document 2C-6 In: Iowa stormwater management manual. Iowa State University Institute for Transportation, Center for Transportation Research and Education. Available http://www.ctre.iastate.edu/PUBS/stormwater/documents/2C-6SmallStormHydrology.pdf. Accessed 1 Sep 2006
  12. Daniels SE, Walker GB (2001) Working through environmental conflict: the collaborative learning approach. Praeger Pubishers, WestportGoogle Scholar
  13. Dillman D (2000) Mail and internet surveys: the tailored designed method. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Dutcher DD, Finley JC, Luloff AE, Johnson J (2004) Landowner perceptions of protecting and establishing riparian forests: a qualitative analysis. Soc Nat Resour 17:329–342Google Scholar
  15. Eaton A, Clesceri L, Greenberg A (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 21st edn. American Public Health Association, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Elmendorf W (2008) The importance of trees and nature in community: a review of the relative literature. Arboric Urban For 34:152–156Google Scholar
  17. Felson AJ, Pickett STA (2005) Designed experiments: new approaches to studying urban ecosystems. Front Ecol Environ 3:549–556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fenemor A, Deans N, Davie T, Allen W, Dymond J, Kilvington M, Phillips C, Basher L, Gillespie P, Young R, Sinner J, Harmsworth G, Atkinson M, Smith R (2008) Collaboration and modeling — tools for integration in the Motueka catchment, New Zealand. Water SA 34:448–455Google Scholar
  19. Fischer JR, Quist MC, Wigen SL, Schaefer AJ, Stewart TW, Isenhart TM (2009) Assemblage and population-level responses of stream fish to riparian buffers at multiple spatial scales. Trans Am Fish Soc 139:185–200Google Scholar
  20. Grimm NB, Redman CL (2004) Approaches to the study of urban ecosystems: the case of Central Arizona-Phoenix. Urban Ecosyst 7:199–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heneghan L, Umek L, Bernau B, Grady K, Iatropulos J, Jabon D, Workman M (2009) Ecological research can augment restoration practice in urban areas degraded by invasive species—examples from Chicago Wilderness. Urban Ecosyst 12:63–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Herringshaw C (2009) Stream ecosystems in human-dominated landscapes: Investigating land use impacts and integrating public participation, restoration, and research. M.Sc. Thesis, Iowa State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  23. IDNR (2002) Water quality standards. Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 61. Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Available http://www.iowadnr.gov/water/standards/files/chapter61.pdf. Accessed 15 Jun 2007
  24. IDNR (2008) DNR beach policy. In: Beach monitoring water monitoring section. Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Available http://wqm.igsb.uiowa.edu/activities/beach/BeachAdvisoryPolicy.htm. Accessed 8 Apr 2007
  25. Janse G, Konijnendijk CC (2007) Communication between science, policy and citizens in public participation in urban forestry—experiences from the Neighbourwoods project. Urban For Urban Green 6:23–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson EA, Catley KM (2009) Urban soil ecology as a focal point for environmental education. Urban Ecosyst 12:79–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnson D, Johnson R, Smith K (1998) Active learning: cooperation in the college classroom. Interaction Book Company, EdinaGoogle Scholar
  28. Kaushal SS, Groffman PM, Mayer PM, Striz E, Gold AJ (2008) Effects of stream restoration on denitrification in an urbanizing watershed. Ecol Appl 18:789–804CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Klapproth JC, Johnson JE (2001) Understanding the science behind riparian forest buffers: planning, establishment, and maintenance. Publication 420–155, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Blacksburg, VAGoogle Scholar
  30. Law NL, Band LE, Grove JM (2004) Nitrogen input from residential lawn care practices in suburban watersheds in Baltimore County, MD. J Environ Plan Manag 47:737–755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Matteo M, Randhir T, Bloniarz D (2006) Watershed-scale impacts of forest buffers on water quality and runoff in an urbanizing environment. J Water Resour Plan Manag 132:144–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McDaniel J, Alley KD (2005) Connecting local environmental knowledge and land use practices: a human ecosystem approach to urbanization in West Georgia. Urban Ecosyst 8:23–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Miltner RJ, White D, Yoder C (2004) The biotic integrity of streams in urban and suburbanizing landscapes. Landsc Urban Plan 69:87–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moore AA, Palmer MA (2005) Invertebrate biodiversity in agricultural and urban headwater streams: implications for conservation and management. Ecol Appl 15:1169–1177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Muenz TK, Golladay SW, Vellidis G, Smith LL (2006) Stream buffer effectiveness in an agriculturally influenced area, Southwestern Georgia: responses of water quality, macroinvertebrates, and amphibians. J Environ Qual 35:1924–1938CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Nassauer JI, Kosek SE, Corry RC (2001) Meeting public expectations with ecological innovation in riparian landscapes. J Am Water Resour Assoc 37:1439–1443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. O’Driscoll JF, Harrison SSC, Giller PS (2006) Do trees make a difference? An evaluation of the impact of riparian vegetation on the ecology of nutrient poor headwater streams. Pol J Ecol 54:695–700Google Scholar
  38. Pahl-Wostl C, Craps M, Dewulf A, Mostert E, Tabara D, Taillieu T (2007) Social learning and water resources management. Ecol Soc 12:5Google Scholar
  39. Pennington SR, Kaplowitz MD, Witter SG (2003) Reexamining best management practices for improving water quality in urban watersheds. J Am Water Resour Assoc 39:1027–1041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pickett STA, Burch WR Jr, Dalton SE, Foresman TW, Grove JM, Rowntree R (1997) A conceptual framework for the study of human ecosystems in urban areas. Urban Ecosyst 1:185–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pickett STA, Cadenasso ML, Grove JM (2004) Resilient cities: meaning, models, and metaphor for integrating the ecological, socio-economic, and planning realms. Landsc Urban Plan 69:369–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rantz SE (1982) Measurement of stage and discharge. In: Rantz SE (ed) Measurement and computation of streamflow, volume 1. USGS Water Supply Paper 2175, United States Department of the Interior, Washington, pp 79–183Google Scholar
  43. Rapport DJ, Gaudet C, Karr JR, Baron JS, Bohlen C, Jackson W, Jones B, Naiman RJ, Norton B, Pollock MM (1998) Evaluating landscape health: integrating societal goals and biophysical process. J Environ Manag 53:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reid DJ, Lake PS, Quinn GP, Reich P (2008) Association of reduced riparian vegetation cover in agricultural landscapes with coarse detritus dynamics in lowland streams. Mar Freshw Res 59:998–1014CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Roy AH, Faust CL, Freeman MC, Meyer JL (2005) Reach-scale effects of riparian forest cover on urban stream ecosystems. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 62:2312–2329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schueler T (1995) The architecture of stream buffers. In Site planning for urban stream protection. Document SCH-004, Center for Watershed Protection, Ellicott City, MDGoogle Scholar
  47. Schueler TR, Holland HK (2000) Why stormwater matters. In: Maryland Department of the Environment stormwater manual, Article 63, the practice of watershed protection. Center for Watershed Protection, Ellicott City, MDGoogle Scholar
  48. Selin SW, Pierskalla C, Smaldone D, Robinson K (2007) Social learning and building trust through a participatory design for natural resource planning. J For 105:421–425Google Scholar
  49. Shanley P, Gaia GR (2002) Equitable ecology: collaborative learning for local benefit in Amazonia. Agric Syst 73:83–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Singer JW, Malone RW, Tomer MD, Meade TG, Welch J (2006) Compost effect on water retention and native plant establishment on a construction embankment. J Soil Water Conserv 61:268–273Google Scholar
  51. Small SA, Uttal L (2005) Action-oriented research: strategies for engaged scholarship. J Marriage Fam 67:936–948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stein TV, Anderson DH, Kelly T (1999) Using stakeholders’ values to apply ecosystem management in an Upper Midwest landscape. Environ Manag 24:399–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thompson JR, Elmendorf WF, McDonough MH, Burban LL (2005) Participation and conflict: lessons learned from community forestry. J For 103(4):174–178Google Scholar
  54. Towne MA (1998) Open space conservation in urban environments: lessons from Thousands Oaks, California. Urban Ecosyst 2:85–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. United Nations (1992) Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. A/CONF.151/26, Rio de Janeiro, 3–14 June 1992. Available at http://www.un.org/documents/ga/conf151/aconf15126-1annex1.htm. Accessed 12 May 2009
  56. US Census Bureau (2000) Profile of general demographic characteristics, Ames, IA. Available at http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/QTTable?_bm=y&-qr_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U_DP1&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U&-_lang=en&-geo_id=16000US1901855. Accessed 7 Jul 2010
  57. USEPA (1978) Method 365.3: phosphorus, all forms (colorimetric, ascorbic acid, two reagent). United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  58. USEPA (1993a) Method 353.2: Determination of nitrate-nitrite nitrogen by automated colorimetry. Revision 2.0. Chemistry Research Division, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  59. USEPA (1993b) Method 365.1: Determination of phosphorus by semi-automated colorimetry. Revision 2.0. Chemistry Research Division, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  60. USEPA (2000) Storm water phase II final rule: small MS4 storm water program overview. EPA 833-F-00-002. United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water, Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  61. USEPA (2006) National recommended water quality criteria. 4304T. United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  62. Walsh CJ, Waller KA, Gehling J, Mac Nally R (2007) Riverine invertebrate assemblages are degraded more by catchment urbanisation than by riparian deforestation. Freshw Biol 52:574–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. White SS, Boswell MR (2006) Planning for water quality: implementation of the NPDES Phase II stormwater program in California and Kansas. J Environ Plan Manag 49:141–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Young RF, Wolf SA (2006) Goal attainment in urban ecology research: a bibliometric review 1975–2004. Urban Ecosyst 9:179–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zhou W, Troy A, Grove JM, Jenkins JC (2008) Can money buy green? Demographic and socioeconomic predictors of lawn care expenditures and lawn greenness in urban residential areas. Soc Nat Resour 22(8):744–760Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cassie J. Herringshaw
    • 1
  • Janette R. Thompson
    • 1
  • Timothy W. Stewart
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, 339 Science II HallIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

Personalised recommendations