Project shows need for better monitoring of river restoration

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---A recent study of river restoration efforts nationwide found that pre- and post-project monitoring of regional projects is largely inadequate to determine their ecological success. But the good news is that a variety of solutions exist to vastly increase the success rate for restoration projects.

The study, conducted by seven university teams, included 37,099 river restoration projects across the country, said David Allan, professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, who was a co-author of the study. Of those projects, more than 700 were in Michigan, Allan said. The results will be published in the April 29 journal Science, "Restoration of U.S. Rivers---a National Synthesis."

The teams found many projects with individual successes, but there was no consistent way to apply those best practices to other projects. The ultimate goal of the study is to compile a database to rate the ecological success of river restoration projects and to share best practices across the country.

The Michigan team looked at river projects in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, where in 2002 an estimated $36.9 to $52.7 million was spent on river restoration projects.

The Michigan team went one step further by attempting to analyze the ecological success of the restoration projects, said Gretchen Alexander, an SNRE graduate student. While thus far it's tough to rate the ecological success, the good news is that there are many ways to improve the way project managers carry out and evaluate ecological restoration.

First, Alexander interviewed 39 project managers in the three states about whether they viewed their projects as successful. During questioning, 88 percent of project managers subjectively rated their projects as successful, Alexander said. However, when she applied five stringent ecological criteria to measure success, the results were "about a C+," she said.

The success criteria include: whether a guidi

Contact: Laura Bailey
University of Michigan

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