The RBMS met on Thursday 16st October to discuss the classic Journal of Applied Ecology article on standards for ecologically successful river restoration (link to pdf here). We were lucky to be joined by one of the paper’s co-authors: Emeritus Professor Sam Lake.
We had a wide ranging discussion on the standards of success nominated in the paper; and the challenges in implementing these standards in the industry.
Palmer et al (2005) Standards for ecologically successful river restoration. Journal of Applied Ecology, 42, 208–217.
Increasingly, river managers are turning from hard engineering solutions to ecologically based restoration activities in order to improve degraded waterways. River restoration projects aim to maintain or increase ecosystem goods and services while protecting downstream and coastal ecosystems. There is growing interest in applying river restoration techniques to solve environmental problems, yet little agreement exists on what constitutes a successful river restoration effort.
We propose five criteria for measuring success, with emphasis on an ecological perspective. First, the design of an ecological river restoration project should be based on a specified guiding image of a more dynamic, healthy river that could exist at the site. Secondly, the river’s ecological condition must be measurably improved. Thirdly, the river system must be more self-sustaining and resilient to external perturbations so that only minimal follow-up maintenance is needed. Fourthly, during the construction phase, no lasting harm should be inflicted on the ecosystem. Fifthly, both pre- and post-assessment must be completed and data made publicly available.
Determining if these five criteria have been met for a particular project requires development of an assessment protocol. We suggest standards of evaluation for each of the five criteria and provide examples of suitable indicators.