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Keywords:

  • urban areas;
  • rivers/streams;
  • watersheds;
  • geomorphology;
  • streamflow;
  • restoration

Abstract

Urban stream restoration continues to be used as an ecological management tool, despite uncertainty about the long-term sustainability and resilience of restored systems. Evaluations of restoration success often focus on specific instream indicators, with limited attention to the wider basin or parallel hydrologic and geomorphic process. A comprehensive understanding of urban stream restoration progress is particularly important for comparisons with nonurban sites as urban streams can provide substantial secondary benefits to urban residents. Here, we utilize a wide range of indicators to retrospectively examine the restoration of Nine Mile Run, a multi-million dollar stream restoration project in eastern Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, USA). Examination of available continuous hydrological data illustrates the high cost of failures to incorporate the data into planning and adaptive management. For example, persistent extreme flows drive geomorphic degradation threatening to reverse hydrologic connections created by the restoration and impact the improved instream biotic communities. In addition, human activities associated with restoration efforts suggest a positive feedback as the stream restoration has focused effort on the basin beyond the reach. Ultimately, urban stream restoration remains a potentially useful management tool, but continued improvements in post-project assessment should include examination of a wider range of indicators.