Submitted to: Ecology and Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/17/2008
Publication Date: 12/16/2008
Citation: Shields Jr, F.D., Pezeshki, S., Wilson, G.V., Wu, W., Dabney, S.M. 2008. Rehabilitation of an incised stream using plant materials: the dominance of geomorphic processes. Ecology and Society 13(2) Paper #54. [online]
Interpretive Summary: Stream ecosystems in the Southeastern U.S. harbor large numbers of species and represent significant ecological resources, but have experienced widespread degradation due to factors driven by land use and channel modifications. Few scientific reports exist describing attempts to rehabilitate these ecosystems, and technical guidance for standard practices is absent. A group of multidisciplinary studies were conducted for five years associated with rehabilitation of a 2-km-long reach of a severely eroded sand bed stream in central Mississippi. Restoration practices featured the use of native living and dead plant materials. Although the project was initially successful in producing improved aquatic habitat, it ultimately failed to stabilize the eroding channel and produce long-term ecological benefits. Insights gained from this experiment will guide future research and demonstration efforts.
Technical Abstract: Restoration of potentially species-rich stream ecosystems in physically unstable environments is challenging, and few attempts have been scientifically evaluated. A 2-km reach of an incised, sand-bed stream in northern Mississippi was treated with large wood structures and willow plantings to trigger responses that would result in increasing similarity with a lightly-degraded reference stream. Experimental approaches for streambank and gully stabilization were also included in the project. The treated reach and adjacent reaches up- and downstream were monitored for two years before and four years after rehabilitation. Although the project was initially successful in producing improved aquatic habitat, it ultimately failed to effectively address issues related to flashy watershed hydrology and physical instability manifest by erosion and sedimentation. Ecosystem rehabilitation success was governed by landscape-scale geomorphic processes.