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Evaluating Success Criteria and Project Monitoring in River Enhancement Within an Adaptive Management Framework

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Abstract

Objective setting, performance measures, and accountability are important components of an adaptive-management approach to river-enhancement programs. Few lessons learned by river-enhancement practitioners in the United States have been documented and disseminated relative to the number of projects implemented. We conducted scripted telephone surveys with river-enhancement project managers and practitioners within the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB) to determine the extent of setting project success criteria, monitoring, evaluation of monitoring data, and data dissemination. Investigation of these elements enabled a determination of those that inhibited adaptive management. Seventy river enhancement projects were surveyed. Only 34% of projects surveyed incorporated a quantified measure of project success. Managers most often relied on geophysical attributes of rivers when setting project success criteria, followed by biological communities. Ninety-one percent of projects that performed monitoring included biologic variables, but the lack of data collection before and after project completion and lack of field-based reference or control sites will make future assessments of ecologic success difficult. Twenty percent of projects that performed monitoring evaluated ≥1 variable but did not disseminate their evaluations outside their organization. Results suggest greater incentives may be required to advance the science of river enhancement. Future river-enhancement programs within the UMRB and elsewhere can increase knowledge gained from individual projects by offering better guidance on setting success criteria before project initiation and evaluation through established monitoring protocols.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded by the McKnight and Charles Mott Foundations. We particularly thank the many participants who agreed to be interviewed. We also thank the NRRSS Working Group, especially Emily Bernhardt, Duke University; Margaret Palmer, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland; and J. David Allan, University of Michigan, for their support and guidance. Claire Baffaut, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute; Ken Lubinski, USGS, Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center; Charles Rabeni, USGS, Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; and three reviewers provided useful comments during earlier drafts. We also thank Benedict Nagy and Kathy Doisy for survey delivery and data entry. This article is a contribution from the Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (USGS, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conversation, University of Missouri, and Wildlife Management Institute).

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Correspondence to T. Kevin O’Donnell.

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O’Donnell, T.K., Galat, D.L. Evaluating Success Criteria and Project Monitoring in River Enhancement Within an Adaptive Management Framework. Environmental Management 41, 90–105 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-007-9010-5

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