Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices

Chapter 7: Ecological Principles

C. A. Frissell

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569049.ch7

What ecological assumptions and strategic considerations underlie restoration of aquatic ecosystems, particularly riverine systems? Managers sometimes pursue aquatic habitat restoration as a self-evident need, with little or no deliberation of the appropriateness of goals, objectives, and methods. In this sense, restoration is treated as a routine maintenance activity, rather than as the science it must be. In this chapter, I argue that restoration and habitat management have been hindered by inattention to ecological context and ignorance of the ecosystem processes involved in the degradation of aquatic resources. Neglect of ecological context has contributed to a long-standing, artificially imposed dichotomy between habitat restoration and habitat protection that has undermined conservation efforts (Doppelt et al. 1993).

After diagnosing the often-implicit ecological assumptions of past restoration, I suggest an alternative logic and conceptual framework for developing integrated and ecologically sustainable strategies for watershed restoration and protection, and for establishing new priorities in restoration tactics. This approach explicitly considers the spatial and temporal patterns in the physical and ecological function of watersheds, with special attention to the natural– historical template provided by existing patterns of aquatic biodiversity. Such an approach has been widely advocated by many scientists and nongovernmental organizations (e.g., Doppelt et al. 1993). Variations of it have been at least tentatively implemented in recent federal and state restoration projects in the Pacific Northwest.