LANDSCAPE-SCALE ANALYSIS AND MANAGEMENT OF CUMULATIVE IMPACTS TO RIPARIAN ECOSYSTEMS: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE1

Authors

  • Eric D. Stein,

    1. Respectively, Principal Ecologist, PCR Services Corporation, One Venture, Suite 150, Irvine, California 92618; and Director and Professor, Environmental Science and Engineering Program, University of California, School of Public Health, 10833 LeConte Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90095–1772 (E-Mail/Stein: E.Stein@pcrnet.com).
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  • Richard F Ambrose

    1. Respectively, Principal Ecologist, PCR Services Corporation, One Venture, Suite 150, Irvine, California 92618; and Director and Professor, Environmental Science and Engineering Program, University of California, School of Public Health, 10833 LeConte Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90095–1772 (E-Mail/Stein: E.Stein@pcrnet.com).
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  • 1

    Paper No. 01018 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.Discussions are open until August 1, 2002.

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Analyses of cumulative impacts to riparian systems is an important yet elusive goal. Previous analyses have focused on comparing the number of hectares impacted to the number of hectares restored, without addressing the loss of riparian function or the effect of the spatial distribution of impacts. This paper presents an analysis of the spatial distribution of development-related impacts to riparian ecosystems, that were authorized under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Impacts on habitat structure, contiguity, and landscape context were evaluated using functional indices scaled to regional reference sites. Impact sites were mapped using GIS and analyzed for spatial associations. Positive spatial autocorrelation (i.e. clustering of impact sites) resulted from the piecemeal approach to impact assessment, which failed to prevent cumulative impacts. Numerous small projects in close proximity have resulted in adverse impacts to entire stream reaches or have fragmented the aquatic resources to a point where overall functional capacity is impaired. Additionally, the ecological functions of unaffected areas have been diminished due to their proximity to degraded areas. A proactive approach to managing cumulative impacts is currently being used in Orange County, California as part of a Corps of Engineers sponsored Special Area Management Plan (SAMP). The SAMP process is evaluating the ecological conditions and physical processes of the study watersheds and attempting to plan future development in a manner that will guard against cumulative impacts.

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