Linking Theory and Practice for Restoration of Step-Pool Streams

Abstract

Step-pools sequences are increasingly used to restore stream channels. This increase corresponds to significant advances in theory for step-pools in recent years. The need for step-pools in stream restoration arises as urban development encroaches into steep terrain in response to population pressures, as stream channels in lower-gradient areas require stabilization due to hydrological alterations associated with land-use changes, and as step-pools are recognized for their potential to enhance stream habitats. Despite an increasingly voluminous literature and great demand for restoration using step-pool sequences, however, the link between theory and practice is limited. In this article, we present four unique cases of stream restoration using step-pools, including the evolution of the approaches, the project designs, and adjustments in the system following restoration. Baxter Creek in El Cerrito, California demonstrates an early application of artificial step-pools in which natural adjustments occurred toward geomorphic stability and ecological improvement. Restoration of East Alamo Creek in a large residential development near San Ramon, California illustrates an example of step-pools increasingly used in locations where such a channel form would not naturally occur. Construction of a step-pool channel in Karnowsky Creek within the Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon overcame constraints posed by access and the type and availability of materials; the placement of logs allowed natural scouring below steps. Dry Canyon Creek on the property of the Mountains Restoration Trust in Calabasas, California afforded a somewhat experimental approach to designing step-pools, allowing observation and learning in the future. These cases demonstrate how theories and relationships developed for step-pool sequences over the past two decades have been applied in real-world settings. The lessons from these examples enable us to develop considerations useful for deriving an appropriate course of design, approval, and construction of artificial step-pool systems. They also raise additional fundamental questions concerning appropriate strategies for restoration of step-pool streams. Outstanding challenges are highlighted as opportunities for continuing theoretical work.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Rune Steoresund, Kate Huxster, and Drew Goetting as well as Samantha Sellers and Eric Williams for assistance with field surveys in Baxter Creek and Dry Canyon Creek, respectively. We also thank the numerous individuals who provided insightful discussions during the course of this project. PWA acknowledges the work of Michael Burke in the step-pool design of East Alamo Creek. Cristina Alejandre and David Laurencio assisted with manuscript preparation. W. Andrew Marcus and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments that improved the final maunscript. This article was developed with support in part from the National Science Foundation (BCS 0620543).

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Chin, A., Anderson, S., Collison, A. et al. Linking Theory and Practice for Restoration of Step-Pool Streams. Environmental Management 43, 645 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-008-9171-x

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Keywords

  • Step-pools
  • River restoration
  • Environmental management
  • Human impacts
  • Channel design