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Home » News/Events » The Journal » Vol. 13 Issue 2 » UPDATE: The California Riparian Restoration Handbook: 7 Years Later

UPDATE: The California Riparian Restoration Handbook: 7 Years Later

  • By Helen Swagerty, Senior Biologist, Sacramento Valley

The California Riparian Restoration Handbook (Handbook), prepared by the Riparian Habitat Joint Venture in 2008, responded to a strong need for experience-based guidelines for cost-effective, large-scale riparian habitat restoration. This type of restoration has been developing throughout California since the 1980’s and was pioneered in the Sacramento Valley by retired Senior Ecologist, Dr. Tom Griggs. Tom authored the Handbook and shared that “the Handbook was a way to succinctly tie together 20 years of experience and lessons learned in the field and were intended to help those that were planning or funding large-scale restoration projects.”

Since its publication, the Handbook has been used in a variety of ways to improve the efficiency of habitat restoration by practitioners, provide a learning tool for ecology students, and educate managers of funding programs and flood control agencies. It’s been cited as a reference in the NRCS Conservation Practice Standard for Riparian Forest Buffer, which provides technical information to field offices and landowners. It serves as a lesson in environmental studies classes at CSU, Sacramento. Lastly, the Handbook is a reference in more than a dozen planning documents supporting DWR’s Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. The Handbook provided the backbone for over $40 million and 4,000 acres of riparian habitat restoration implemented by River Partners alone! With dozens of species on the brink of extinction that are reliant upon riparian habitats (more than any other habitat type in California), the utility of the Handbook cannot be understated.

During the last seven years, we have learned a lot about restoration success, ecological response to disturbance in restored areas, wildlife response to restoration, and interactions between restored habitat and other societal values in the river corridor (such as farming, flood management, water supply, and carbon sequestration). For example, we have learned how to assess opportunities to allow floodwater attenuation and encourage floodplain reconnection to provide foraging habitat for dwindling salmon populations on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. We experimented with efficiently cultivating dozens of additional plant species to build our planting palette and provide the habitat diversity and resilience needed to ensure that restored habitats can adapt to our changing climate. Finally, we have observed the effects of unseasonal flooding and prolonged drought that favors invasive weeds– highlighting the need to aggressively establish dense native plant cover quickly, and to implement comprehensive weed monitoring and management over time.

The Handbook has been available in its full version free of charge to all visitors to River Partners website since it was published. If funding permits, River Partners would like to share its lessons learned since 2008 in an updated California Riparian Habitat Restoration Handbook. Sharing experiences in a format that can be used by restoration planners, implementers, regulators, program managers, and project managers will provide an amplified “ecological lift” for our precarious riparian ecosystems across the western US. Updates will include additional information and data regarding flood management and riparian ecosystem function, additional lessons learned in coordinated weed management, and Case Studies from across California, including Southern California’s coastal areas. If you are interested in helping River Partners gather the needed funds to update this important resource, please contact Jerry Dion at gdion@riverpartners.org.

You can download the Handbook here.

The above article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of the River Partners Journal.