Research Summaries


Compiled by Alan Carpenter

Rader, R. B., N. J. Voelz, J. V. Ward.
2008. Post-flood recovery of a macroinvertebrate community in a regulated river: resilience of an anthropogenically altered ecosystem. Restoration Ecology 16:24-33.

Preservation of biodiversity depends on restoring the full range of historic environmental variation to which organisms have evolved, including natural disturbances. Lotic ecosystems have been fragmented by dams causing a reduction in natural levels of environmental variation (flow and temperature) and consequently a reduction of biodiversity in downstream communities. We conducted a long-term study of the macroinvertebrate communities before and after natural flood disturbances in an unregulated reference site (natural flows and temperatures), a regulated site (regulated flows and temperatures), and a partially regulated reference site (regulated flows and natural temperatures) on the upper Colorado River downstream from a deep-release storage reservoir. We aimed to test the hypothesis that floods and temperature restoration would cause an increase in macroinvertebrate diversity at the regulated site. Over the short term, macroinvertebrate richness decreased at the regulated site when compared to pre-flood levels, whereas total macroinvertebrate density remained unchanged. Over the long term (1 and 10 years after the floods), macroinvertebrate diversity and community structure at the regulated site returned to pre-flood levels without increasing to reference conditions. Occasional floods did not restore biodiversity in this system. As long as the physical state variables remain altered beyond a threshold, the community will return to its altered regulated condition. However, temperature restoration at the partially regulated site resulted in an increase in macroinvertebrate diversity. Our results indicate that restoration of the natural temperature regime will have a stronger effect on restoring biodiversity than occasional channel-forming floods.


Shafroth, P. B. and M. K. Briggs.
2008. Restoration ecology and invasive riparian plants: an introduction to the special section on Tamarix spp. in western North America. Restoration Ecology 16:94-96.

River systems around the world are subject to various perturbations, including the colonization and spread of non-native species in riparian zones. Riparian resource managers are commonly engaged in efforts to control problematic non-native species and restore native habitats. In western North America, small Eurasian trees or shrubs in the genus Tamarix occupy hundreds of thousands of hectares of riparian lands, and are the targets of substantial and costly control efforts and associated restoration activities. Still, significant information gaps exist regarding approaches used in control and restoration efforts and their effects on riparian ecosystems. In this special section of papers, eight articles address various aspects of control and restoration associated with Tamarix spp. These include articles focused on planning restoration and revegetation; a synthetic analysis of past restoration efforts; and several specific research endeavors examining plant responses, water use, and various wildlife responses (including birds, butterflies, and lizards). These articles represent important additions to the Tamarix spp. literature and contain many lessons and insights that should be transferable to other analogous situations in river systems globally.


Shafroth, P. B., V. B. Beauchamp, M. K. Briggs, K. Lair, M. L. Scott, A. A. Sher.
2008. Planning riparian restoration in the context of Tamarix control in western North America. Restoration Ecology 16:97-112.

Throughout the world, the condition of many riparian ecosystems has declined due to numerous factors, including encroachment of non-native species. In the western United States, millions of dollars are spent annually to control invasions of Tamarix spp., introduced small trees or shrubs from Eurasia that have colonized bottomland ecosystems along many rivers. Resource managers seek to control Tamarix in attempts to meet various objectives, such as increasing water yield and improving wildlife habitat. Often, riparian restoration is an implicit goal, but there has been little emphasis on a process or principles to effectively plan restoration activities, and many Tamarix removal projects are unsuccessful at restoring native vegetation. We propose and summarize the key steps in a planning process aimed at developing effective restoration projects in Tamarix-dominated areas. We discuss in greater detail the biotic and abiotic factors central to the evaluation of potential restoration sites and summarize information about plant communities likely to replace Tamarix under various conditions. Although many projects begin with implementation, which includes the actual removal of Tamarix, we stress the importance of pre-project planning that includes: (1) clearly identifying project goals; (2) developing realistic project objectives based on a detailed evaluation of site conditions; (3) prioritizing and selecting Tamarix control sites with the best chance of ecological recovery; and (4) developing a detailed tactical plan before Tamarix is removed. After removal, monitoring and maintenance as part of an adaptive management approach are crucial for evaluating project success and determining the most effective methods for restoring these challenging sites.


Bay, R. F. and A. A. Sher.
2008. Success of active revegetation after Tamarix removal in riparian ecosystems of the southwestern United States: a quantitative assessment of past restoration projects. Restoration Ecology 16:113-128.

Invasion by the non-native tree Tamarix has led to implementation of restoration projects aimed at maintaining the ecological integrity of many riparian communities in the southwestern United States. These restoration efforts may include Tamarix removal, manipulation of hydrologic regimes, and active revegetation of native species. The goal of this study was to determine which site characteristics are correlated with restoration success, defined in terms of reductions of undesirable species such as Tamarix and establishment of desirable, native species. To accomplish this, vegetative and environmental data were collected at 28 sites in the southwestern United States where active revegetation was completed after Tamarix removal. These data were incorporated into regression tree models with predictor variables that included number of years since removal (1-18 years) and multiple management, climate, soils, and hydrological variables to determine success of Tamarix control, revegetation success, and general plant community responses. Our results suggest that there are easily measurable site characteristics that are associated with greater native cover and richness, planting success, and Tamarix control. Close proximity to perennial water, sufficient precipitation, recent flooding, and good drainage as well as coarser soil texture, and lower soil pH all favored native species. Overall, those site characteristics associated with native species success were the same as those related to lower Tamarix cover. These quantitative models are intended to assist researchers and land managers to design more effective riparian restoration efforts in this critical arid lands ecosystem.