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Challenges 2017, 8(2), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe8020031

Challenges in Aquatic Physical Habitat Assessment: Improving Conservation and Restoration Decisions for Contemporary Watersheds

1
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA
2
Institute of Water Security and Science, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA
3
School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 25611, USA
4
Natural Resource Analysis Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 October 2017 / Revised: 25 November 2017 / Accepted: 4 December 2017 / Published: 5 December 2017
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Abstract

Attribution of in-stream biological impairment to anthropogenic activities and prioritization for restoration and/or conservation can be challenging in contemporary mixed-land-use watersheds. Critical information necessary to improve decision making can be costly and labor intensive, and thus unobtainable for many municipalities. A reduced cost, rapid stream physical habitat assessment (rPHA) can yield information that, when paired with land use data may reveal causal patterns in aquatic physical habitat degradation, and thus assist targeting sites for restoration. However, a great deal of work is needed to reduce associated costs, and validate the potential of rPHA for documenting fine-scale incremental change in physical habitat conditions in complex contemporary watersheds. The following commentary serves to draw attention to rPHA challenges and research needs including (but not limited to) field-based validation and optimization of new remote sensing technologies, evaluation of the accuracy and representativeness of rapid vegetation survey methods, refinement of analytical methods, and consideration of legacy land use impacts and hydrologic system evolution in rPHA results interpretation. Considering the value of rPHA-generated data for improvement of watershed resource management, such challenges constitute timely, high-impact research opportunities for investigators wishing to advance complex, contemporary aquatic ecosystem management. View Full-Text
Keywords: drone-based remote sensing; aquatic ecosystems; rapid physical habitat assessment; hydrogeomorphology; mixed-land-use watersheds; urban watersheds; biological impairment; stream restoration; legacy effects; aquatic vegetation drone-based remote sensing; aquatic ecosystems; rapid physical habitat assessment; hydrogeomorphology; mixed-land-use watersheds; urban watersheds; biological impairment; stream restoration; legacy effects; aquatic vegetation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Hubbart, J.A.; Kellner, E.; Kinder, P.; Stephan, K. Challenges in Aquatic Physical Habitat Assessment: Improving Conservation and Restoration Decisions for Contemporary Watersheds. Challenges 2017, 8, 31.

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