MacDonald, Kit; U.S. Forest Service, Kaibab National Forest, Williams, AZ (Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science, 2015-04-18)
      Stream and watershed restoration projects have become increasingly common throughout the U.S., and the need for systematic post-project monitoring and assessment is apparent. This study describes three stream and watershed ecological restoration projects and the monitoring and evaluation methods employed or planned to evaluate project successes or failures. The stream and watershed restoration and evaluation methods described in this paper may be applicable to projects of similar types and scales. Rivers and streams serve a variety of purposes, including water supply, wildlife habitat, energy generation, transportation and recreational opportunities. Streams are dynamic, complex systems that not only include the active channel, but also adjacent floodplains and riparian vegetation along their margins. A natural stream system remains stable while transporting varying amounts of streamflow and sediment produced in its watershed, maintaining a state of “dynamic equilibrium.” (Strahler 1957, Hack 1960). When in-stream flow, floodplain morphology, sediment characteristics, or riparian vegetation are altered, this can affect the dynamic equilibrium that exists among these stream features, causing unstable stream and floodplain conditions. This can cause the stream to adjust to a new equilibrium state. This shift may occur over a long time and result in significant changes to water quality and stream habitat. Land-use changes in a watershed, stream channelization, installation of culverts, removal or alteration of streambank vegetation, water impoundments and other activities can dramatically alter ecological balance. As a result, large adjustments in channel morphology, such as excessive bank erosion and/or channel incision, can occur. A new equilibrium may eventually be reached, but not before the associated aquatic and terrestrial environment are severely impaired. Stream restoration is the re-establishment of the general structure, function and self-sustaining characteristics of stream systems that existed prior to disturbance (Doll et al. 2003). It is a holistic approach that requires an understanding of all physical and biological processes in the stream system and its watershed. Restoration can include a broad range of activities, such as the removal or discontinuation of watershed disturbances that are contributing to stream instability; installation of control structures; planting of riparian vegetation to improve streambank stability and provide habitat; and the redesign of unstable or degraded streams into properly functioning channels and associated floodplains. Kauffman et al. (1997) define ecological restoration as the reestablishment of physical, chemical and biological processes and associated linkages which have been damaged by human actions.