Integrating natural approaches in river restoration: experiments of co-evolving physical and biological organization in Wildcat Creek, California

Authors: Anne Chin*, University of Colorado Denver, Alison P. O'Dowd, Humboldt State University, Patina K. Mendez, University of California, Roger Leventhal, FarWest Restoration Engineering, Laura R. Laurencio, Texas A&M University
Topics: Geomorphology, Environmental Science, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: stream restoration, geomorphology, interdisciplinary science
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Sustainable management of rivers often requires innovative and integrated approaches that emphasize designs that work with nature, rather than traditional hard engineering. The restoration of Wildcat Creek in Berkeley, California, is an example that utilized a natural approach grounded in scientific theory. The design framework recognized the rhythmic nature of the step-pool morphology. After placing step particles at expected locations in the stream channel according to hydraulic theory, the natural approach allowed fluvial processes to refine the rocks into adjusted sequences. A 30-meter “experimental” reach also allowed examination of how geomorphological and ecological characteristics co-evolved after restoration. Rocks strewn randomly at the upstream end of a constructed plane bed allowed natural flows to sort them into step-pool sequences. Ground surveys, terrestrail LiDAR scanning, and sampling of benthic macroinvertebrates tracked the formation of the restored channel, including biological communities and habitat. Biological sampling in a reference reach also enabled comparison with the restoration reach. After three years, results showed that natural flows redistributed the randomly strewn rocks into characteristic step-pool sequences. The steps segmented the initial plane bed channel into habitats that allowed colonization of distinct biological communities. The developing communities increased the diversity of the restoration channel toward that of the reference reach. Results support the hypothesis of a co-organization of physical and biological characteristics following restoration toward a new equilibrium landscape. They also give promise for future restoration designs that favor natural approaches.

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