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Gallery Forest or Herbaceous Wetland? The Need for Multi-Target Perspectives in Riparian Restoration Planning


Address correspondence to P. J. Weisberg, email


Much riparian restoration focuses on establishment of gallery forests, with relatively limited effort to restore herbaceous wetlands as key components of riparian landscape mosaics. Multiple reasons for this include inherent cultural or esthetic preferences, greater availability of scientific knowledge to support riparian forest restoration, and choices of ecological indicators commonly used for monitoring and assessment. Yet riparian herbaceous wetlands have declined dramatically as a result of river regulation and agricultural development, leading to losses of important habitats and ecosystem services that differ from those provided by gallery forests. As an alternative to a single-minded focus on tree establishment, we advocate restoration of diverse and dynamic habitat mosaics in the context of natural variability of flow and sediment regimes. Landscape context should inform active restoration activities at the local scale, such that riparian forests are not planted in ecologically inappropriate sites. Models are needed to match life history requirements of particular wetland herbaceous plant species with details of flow and sediment transport regimes. We emphasize the importance of herbaceous wetlands as a critical and often overlooked component of riparian ecosystems, and the need for both passive and active restoration of fluvial marshes, sloughs, wet meadows, alkali meadows, off-channel ephemeral ponds, and other critical floodplain communities associated with herbaceous plant dominance.