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Keywords:

  • riparian;
  • ecosystems;
  • catchments;
  • restoration;
  • management;
  • rivers

Summary

1. We propose that strategies for the management of riparian ecosystems should incorporate concepts of landscape ecology and contemporary principles of restoration and conservation. A detailed understanding of the temporal and spatial dynamics of the catchment landscape (e.g. changes in the connectivity and functions of channel, riparian and terrestrial components) is critical.

2. This perspective is based upon previous definitions of riparian ecosystems, consideration of functional attributes at different spatial scales and retrospective analyses of anthropogenic influences on river catchments.

3. Restoration strategies must derive from a concise definition of the processes to be restored and conserved, recognition of social values and commitments, quantification of ecological circumstances and the quality of background information and determination of alternatives.

4. The basic components of an effective restoration project include: clear objectives (ecological and physical), baseline data and historical information (e.g. the hydrogeomorphic setting and the disturbance regime), a project design that recognizes functional attributes of biotic refugia, a comparison of plans and outcomes with reference ecosystems; a commitment to long-term planning, implementation and monitoring and, finally, a willingness to learn from both successes and failures.

5. Particularly important is a thorough understanding of past natural disturbances and human-induced changes on riparian functions and attributes, obtained by a historical reconstruction of the catchment.