The Steps for Restoring Riparian Habitat

When speaking of riparian restoration, the reference is to ecology and the natural flow of rivers, streams and lakes. The steps to restore it depend to a large part on what exactly has happened. Have fish stopped using the stream? Have people made dams? Have natural disasters altered the stream or has man tried to interfere with the movement of the river? Any of these will employ different steps to correct and restore the area. However, there are commonalities in each of the projects.

The first step to employ is to return the area as much as possible to its historical state. To do this, dams have to come down and floodplains need to reappear. Livestock may not use the area until the restoration takes place. Mining must stop as this causes much erosion to the land making the area unstable. The impurities in the water will make the water unsafe and eventually stagnate.  Lastly, if exotic plants have grown up in the area, people should uproot them and re-plant native species.

The second step includes fixing the flow of the water. In some cases, flooding is good for an area and needed to return the riparian area to its natural state. You should remove obstructions and anything that blocks the water from flowing freely into the natural riverbed. Beaver dams were some things that the people of Oregon saw that created water that was too warm for trout and steelhead to enter. Florida is another example of successful restoration. They restored the Kissimmee River for flood control. They gradually returned an upland community to a wetland.

The third step means knowing the kinds of plants that historically covered the area. Planting native plants, like willow, will help to restore the area. This may mean making fences to keep out native wildlife until the young plants mature. Again, knowing what or why to restore the area is essential for a true success. Another part of this step includes restoring native wildlife to the area. The animals will help to make the area into a fruitful area. People have often removed animals that help to keep the right plants in check. Initially, putting in hunting and fishing limits or preventing those activities in a restoration area will help achieve the plan.

Employing the simple rule of ecology that certain species survive on certain other species that need a place to live and grow, will make the project a success and keep the area healthy for many years to come. For example, fish provide food for humans. Healthy rivers provide healthy fish. Healthy vegetation growing in and near the river keeps the water pure, so the fish remain healthy.