What Neighborhood Projects Teach

  • Ann L. Riley


What have we learned from these cases? Highly impacted urban environments can support dynamic, functioning stream systems that can support fish and wildlife habitat. Most degraded stream systems require an active restoration approach to return stream processes to re-create channels, floodplains, and riparian resources. The exciting relatively new field of historic ecology has increased our awareness of the ecosystems that used to exist and the functions they performed. Typically, we cannot re-create these ecosystems in developed urban areas, but we can create new environments that can emulate some of the past ecological processes and functions. Central to re-creating some of the functionality is advocating for adequate floodplain area so that the streams have room to adjust and re-form. Some of these re-created environments—such as meandering, single-thread channels through restricted floodplain corridors—can illicit derision from academia, which has the tendency to focus on the limitations of the urban landscape and the desirability of returning the historic landscape. From the perspective of needing to create alternatives to single-purpose flood and erosion control projects, however, the urban streams restoration movement has introduced viable environmental alternatives.


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