Restoring Rivers One Reach at a Time: Results from a Survey of U.S. River Restoration Practitioners

Authors

  • Emily S. Bernhardt,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of biology, BOX 90338, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, U.S.A.
    2. Departments of Entomology and Biology, Plant Sciences Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, U.S.A.
      Address correspondence to E. S. Bernhardtt, email emily.bernhardt@duke.edu
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  • Elizabeth B. Sudduth,

    1. Department of biology, BOX 90338, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, U.S.A.
    2. Institute of Ecology, 517 Biological Sciences Bldg., University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, U.S.A.
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  • Margaret A. Palmer,

    1. Departments of Entomology and Biology, Plant Sciences Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, U.S.A.
    2. Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, P.O. Box 38, Solomons, MD 20688, U.S.A.
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  • J. David Allan,

    1. School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, U.S.A.
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  • Judy L. Meyer,

    1. Institute of Ecology, 517 Biological Sciences Bldg., University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, U.S.A.
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  • Gretchen Alexander,

    1. Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, P.O. Box 38, Solomons, MD 20688, U.S.A.
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  • Jennifer Follastad-Shah,

    1. Department of biology, BOX 90338, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, U.S.A.
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  • Brooke Hassett,

    1. Department of biology, BOX 90338, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, U.S.A.
    2. Departments of Entomology and Biology, Plant Sciences Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, U.S.A.
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  • Robin Jenkinson,

    1. Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, U.S.A.
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  • Rebecca Lave,

    1. Department of Geography, McCone Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, U.S.A.
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  • Jeanne Rumps,

    1. Center for Ecohydraulic Research, College of Engineering, 322 E. Front St., Suite 340, University of Idaho, Boise, ID, U.S.A.
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  • Laura Pagano

    1. Department of Geography, McCone Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, U.S.A.
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Address correspondence to E. S. Bernhardtt, email emily.bernhardt@duke.edu

Abstract

Despite expenditures of more than 1 billion dollars annually, there is little information available about project motivations, actions, and results for the vast majority of river restoration efforts. We performed confidential telephone interviews with 317 restoration project managers from across the United States with the goals of (1) assessing project motivations and the metrics of project evaluation and (2) estimating the proportion of projects that set and meet criteria for ecologically successful river restoration projects. According to project managers, ecological degradation typically motivated restoration projects, but post-project appearance and positive public opinion were the most commonly used metrics of success. Less than half of all projects set measurable objectives for their projects, but nearly two-thirds of all interviewees felt that their projects had been “completely successful.” Projects that we classified as highly effective were distinct from the full database in that most had significant community involvement and an advisory committee. Interviews revealed that many restoration practitioners are frustrated by the lack of funding for and emphasis on project monitoring. To remedy this, we recommend a national program of strategic monitoring focused on a subset of future projects. Our interviews also suggest that merely conducting and publishing more scientific studies will not lead to significant improvements in restoration practice; direct, collaborative involvement between scientists, managers, and practitioners is required for forward progress in the science and application of river restoration.

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