Looking Back Long-Term Monitoring of Restoration Sites
By Jessica Hammond
Monitoring is an often underappreciated tool for science that has the potential to provide us with the data needed to document change through time. Understanding how environmental variables change, such as bird populations or plant succession, allows for informed and responsible management and conservation decisions.
At River Partners, monitoring is an integral part of every restoration project, and staff biologists record plant growth and survivorship during each growing season. The data collected allows us to show how well the habitat is performing, but more often than not monitoring can only take place during the first three growing seasons- the typical installation period of a restoration project. This information is vital to evaluating the success of restoration project in its early stages, but the question remains: what happens to the site after management stops?
In 2009, River Partners began to answer this question by developing the Long-Term Monitoring Project. Biologists revisited restoration plantings along the Sacramento River that had not been monitored for 8-15 years and collected measurements on plants and other habitat variables including canopy cover and canopy density. The results of the Long- Term Monitoring Project provide us with an understanding of how restoration plantings progress through time, and even how individual species perform and grow.
In addition to vegetation measurements, River Partners conducted avian monitoring in the summer of 2010 at each of the sites. By pairing the avian monitoring data with our vegetation data we can gain a better understanding of which habitat features are important for birds and use this information to maximize the wildlife benefits we can provide with future restoration projects.
In an effort to share this information with the worldwide restoration community and demonstrate the importance of Long- Term Monitoring projects, River Partners is preparing a manuscript that will be submitted to a peer reviewed scientific journal in 2010. The initial findings of the vegetation monitoring have already been presented at the Sacramento-Shasta Chapter Meeting of The Wildlife Society in November of 2009, and additional articles and presentations will also be produced from these valuable data sets that will further illustrate the success and importance of riparian restoration. We will also post these publications on our website: www.RiverPartners.org.