State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2012CA294B
Title: Creek Carbon - Dynamics of Carbon and Nitrogen in Restored Mediterranean Riparian Zones
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 9/01/2011
End Date: 8/30/2013
Congressional District: 44
Focus Categories: Water Use, Surface Water, Nitrate Contamination
Principal Investigator: Lewis, David
Federal Funds: $ 0
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 30,833
Abstract: Riparian areas have been referred to as "hot-spots" of potential soil carbon sequestration. The increased availability of water and soil moisture, relative to the rest of the landscape, affords greater vegetation biomass production and therein the potential for larger above and below ground carbon pools and nitrogen cycling. By some estimates, there has been a loss of more than 50% of riparian vegetative cover as a result of management in United States over the last 300 hundred years, with a corresponding loss of sequestered carbon and nitrogen uptake capacity. Efforts over the last four decades to restore streams and rivers through riparian revegetation are reversing these losses and reestablishing riparian ecosystem services. In Marin County, California for example, the Marin Resource Conservation District has revegetated and restored 15 miles of stream from 1990 to 2005.

Documenting and understanding the contribution stream restoration has in sequestering carbon, and its corresponding influence on nitrogen uptake, will advance the role restored rangeland stream habitats have in reducing global climate change impacts and improving in-stream water quality. Accordingly, we have designed this project to: Document the contributions of stream and river revegetation to the sequestration of soil and vegetative carbon on California and Mediterranean rangelands; and Maximize the role of stream restoration projects in reducing impacts to global climate change through carbon sequestration and water quality management through nitrogen uptake.

To establish the trajectories of carbon and nitrogen dynamics as a result of riparian restoration, we will conduct soil and vegetation sampling and analysis through across-sectional survey of up to 30 previously restored sites, ranging in project ages from 6 to 40 years. This will include soil sample collection and analysis and vegetative biomass measurement within restored stream reaches stratified by plant functional groups. We have effectively used this cross-sectional approach to document other ecosystem service outcomes from riparian restoration and management. Using it in researching carbon and nitrogen dynamics will compliment this earlier work and provide a more comprehensive documentation of the role that riparian revegetation has in the magnitude of any changes to soil and vegetative carbon and nitrogen cycling and the duration of time required for these changes to occur.

We have actively extended and published results from our earlier investigations of riparian revegetation and ecosystem service results through a number of venues to a variety of audiences. These include conference presentations, posters, and proceedings for Society of Ecological Restoration, American Water Resources Association, and California Society for Ecological Restoration specialty conferences on riparian restoration and management. Additionally, we have hosted and presented local University of California Cooperative Extension shortcourses, including 100 participant Stream Restoration Success shortcourse in 2007. Results have also been compiled and published as graduate student thesis and peer-reviewed journal articles including publication in Restoration Ecology. Similarly, we will work with our local partners in the five-county project region through participation in conferences, organizing appropriate shortcourses, and submitting manuscripts to relevant peer-reviewed journals. Our outreach and education objective is to: Make the research information available to landowners and managers, restoration practitioners, funders, permitting agencies and their decision making processes and policy decisions in a manner that improves the design, installation, and maintenance of these projects towards greater delivery of ecosystem services.

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