Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Stream Restoration and Asset Protection

Riverine ecosystems are dynamic landscape features that provide essential functions such as cycling nutrients, filtering contaminants from runoff, absorbing and gradually releasing floodwaters, maintaining fish and wildlife habitats, recharging ground water, and maintaining stream flow.   Human-induced changes to the landscape, primarily agricultural activities and urbanization are known to impact stream ecosystems.  Progress has been made to mitigate effects of urbanization on stream ecosystems through preventative measures such as stormwater BMPs and remedial efforts like stream and wetland restoration.

As Virginia experience the impacts of climate change on watershed hydrology, riverine ecosystems are facing a new challenge of human development. Hydrologic changes in the watershed can have significant impact to the hydraulics of a stream. Increases in temperature impact a key stabilizing feature in a restored stream: the establishment of vegetation.  In some cases, the risk of failure to human and natural assets increases as streams respond to changing climate patterns to reach a new dynamic equilibrium.    Stream restoration practitioners must assess the impacts of climate change and ensure designs are both resilient and adaptable to these changes.

This presentation will summarize modeling, design, and implementation considerations to mitigate effects of climate change on restored stream reaches.  Several case studies will be presented to illustrate application of stream restoration design criteria to adapt to changing climate in urban landscapes. In addition, this presentation will focus on how the application of these considerations protects investments in stream restoration as well as both human and natural assets in the riparian corridor.