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Water 2017, 9(3), 174;

Evaluating Stream Restoration Projects: What Do We Learn from Monitoring?

Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Facultad de Ingenierías y Ciencias Agropecuarias, Ingeniería Ambiental, Unidad de Investigación en Biotecnología y Medio Ambiente -BIOMA-, Campus Queri, Calle José Queri, Edificio #8, PB, Universidad de las Américas, 170504 Quito, Ecuador
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: John S. Schwartz
Received: 1 September 2016 / Revised: 4 February 2017 / Accepted: 7 February 2017 / Published: 28 February 2017
PDF [237 KB, uploaded 6 March 2017]


Two decades since calls for stream restoration projects to be scientifically assessed, most projects are still unevaluated, and conducted evaluations yield ambiguous results. Even after these decades of investigation, do we know how to define and measure success? We systematically reviewed 26 studies of stream restoration projects that used macroinvertebrate indicators to assess the success of habitat heterogeneity restoration projects. All 26 studies were previously included in two meta-analyses that sought to assess whether restoration programs were succeeding. By contrast, our review focuses on the evaluations themselves, and asks what exactly we are measuring and learning from these evaluations. All 26 studies used taxonomic diversity, richness, or abundance of invertebrates as biological measures of success, but none presented explicit arguments why those metrics were relevant measures of success for the restoration projects. Although changes in biodiversity may reflect overall ecological condition at the regional or global scale, in the context of reach-scale habitat restoration, more abundance and diversity may not necessarily be better. While all 26 studies sought to evaluate the biotic response to habitat heterogeneity enhancement projects, about half of the studies (46%) explicitly measured habitat alteration, and 31% used visual estimates of grain size or subjectively judged ‘habitat quality’ from protocols ill-suited for the purpose. Although the goal of all 26 projects was to increase habitat heterogeneity, 31% of the studies either sampled only riffles or did not specify the habitats sampled. One-third of the studies (35%) used reference ecosystems to define target conditions. After 20 years of stream restoration evaluation, more work remains for the restoration community to identify appropriate measures of success and to coordinate monitoring so that evaluations are at a scale capable of detecting ecosystem change. View Full-Text
Keywords: stream restoration; evaluating success; post-project appraisal; metrics; aquatic macroinvertebrates stream restoration; evaluating success; post-project appraisal; metrics; aquatic macroinvertebrates
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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Rubin, Z.; Kondolf, G.M.; Rios-Touma, B. Evaluating Stream Restoration Projects: What Do We Learn from Monitoring? Water 2017, 9, 174.

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