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A Function-Based Framework for Stream Assessment & Restoration Projects

Stream restoration efforts have increased significantly in the US over the past few decades and are now recognized as a billion-dollar industry. These restoration efforts stem from centuries of abuse as humans continue to alter the riverine landscape for a variety of purposes, including farming, logging, mining and development on the floodplain, and the subsequent need for channelization and flood control. These activities have significantly diminished the natural functions of our stream corridors. Today stream corridor restoration efforts seek to improve or restore these lost functions. A variety of federal, state and local programs, along with efforts from non-profit organizations, provide funding for these programs. The goals are varied and range from simple streambank stabilization projects to watershed scale restoration. For these projects to be successful it is important to know why the project is being completed and what techniques are best suited to restore the lost functions. Knowing why a project is needed requires some form of functional assessment followed by clear project goals. To successfully restore stream functions, it is necessary to understand how these different functions work together and which restoration techniques influence a given function. It is also imperative to understand that stream functions are interrelated and build on each other in a specific order, a functional hierarchy. If this hierarchy is understood, it is easier to establish project goals. And with clearer goals, it is easier to evaluate project success.

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