Restoring polluted rivers hindered by lack of coordination

DURHAM, N.C. -- If the nation's increasingly polluted rivers are to be rehabilitated, the restoration projects must be better organized and coordinated, according to a national group of experts in the field.

To aid this coordination, the researchers have performed the first-ever analysis of currently available information, which they compiled in a database, called the National River Restoration Science Synthesis (NRRSS) http://nrrss.umd.edu. The 25 researchers reported their findings in an article in the Friday April 29, 2005, issue of the journal Science. First author of the policy paper was Duke University biologist Emily Bernhardt.

Assessing 37,099 NRRSS projects included as of July, 2004, the researchers concluded that restoration efforts have "increased exponentially throughout the last decade, paralleling the increase in media and scientific reports."

With more than one-third of the nation's rivers now listed as impaired or polluted, "river restoration has become a booming, highly profitable business and will play an increasingly prominent role in environmental management and policy decisions," their report said.

However, the report's authors wrote that a comprehensive assessment of the success of this rehabilitation is impossible since available information remains "piecemeal."

Specifically, the authors' analysis of NRRSS data found that "only 10 percent of all project records indicated any form of assessment or monitoring occurred." Furthermore, only 58 percent of those records had information on project costs. Meanwhile, "a large proportion of the total dollars spent on restoration are spent on a few, more expensive projects," their report added.

"Because most project records were inadequate to extract even the most rudimentary information on project actions and outcomes, it is apparent that many opportunities to learn from successes and failures, and thus improve future pr

Contact: Monte Basgall
Duke University

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