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Effects of Stream Restoration on Woody Riparian Vegetation of Southern Appalachian Mountain Streams, North Carolina, U.S.A

Authors


G. L. Katz, email katzgl@appstate.edu

Abstract

Riparian revegetation, such as planting woody seedlings or live stakes, is a nearly ubiquitous component of stream restoration projects in the United States. Though evaluations of restoration success usually focus on in-stream ecosystems, in order to understand the full impacts of restoration the effects on riparian ecosystems themselves must be considered. We examined the effects of stream restoration revegetation measures on riparian ecosystems of headwater mountain streams in forested watersheds by comparing riparian vegetation structure and composition at reference, restored, and degraded sites on nine streams. According to mixed model analysis of variance (ANOVA), there was a significant effect of site treatment on riparian species richness, basal area, and canopy cover, but no effect on stem density. Vegetation characteristics at restored sites differed from those of reference sites according to all metrics (i.e. basal area, canopy cover, and species composition) except species richness and stem density. Restored and degraded sites were structurally similar, with some overlap in species composition. Restored sites were dominated by Salix sericea and Cornus amomum (species commonly planted for revegetation) and a suite of disturbance-adapted species also dominant at degraded sites. Differences between reference and restored sites might be due to the young age of restored sites (average 4 years since restoration), to reassembly of degraded site species composition at restored sites, or to the creation of a novel anthropogenic ecosystem on these headwater streams. Additional research is needed to determine if this anthropogenic riparian community type persists as a resilient novel ecosystem and provides valued riparian functions.

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