• adaptive management;
  • database;
  • monitoring;
  • restoration;
  • riparian;
  • river;
  • U.S. Southwest


Restoration activity has exponentially increased across the Southwest since 1990. Over 37,000 records were compiled into the National River Restoration Science Synthesis (NRRSS) database to summarize restoration trends and assess project effectiveness. We analyzed data from 576 restoration projects in the Southwest (NRRSS-SW). More than 50% of projects were less than or equal to 3 km in length. The most common restoration project intent categories were riparian management, water quality management, in-stream habitat improvement, and flow modification. Common project activities were well matched to goals. Conservative estimates of total restoration costs exceeded $500 million. Most restoration dollars have been allocated to flow modification and water quality management. Monitoring was linked to 28% of projects across the Southwest, as opposed to just 10% nationwide. Mean costs were statistically similar whether or not projects were monitored. Results from 48 telephone interviews provided validation of NRRSS-SW database analyses but showed that project costs are often underreported within existing datasets. The majority of interviewees considered their projects to be successful, most often based upon observed improvements to biota or positive public reaction rather than evaluation of field data. The efficacy of restoration is difficult to ascertain given the dearth of information contained within most datasets. There is a great need for regional entities that not only track information on project implementation but also maintain and analyze monitoring data associated with restoration. Agencies that fund or regulate restoration should reward projects that emphasize monitoring and evaluation as much as project implementation.