Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014WA385B

The effects of river restoration on nutrient retention and transport for aquatic food webs

Institute: Washington
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $27,471 Total Non-Federal Funds: $40,934

Principal Investigators: Alexander Fremier, Cailin Orr

Abstract: Stream restoration in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry. Federal agencies spent $1.5 billion between 1997-2001 to recover steelhead and salmon in the Columbia River Basin. In 2010 alone, $80 million was spent. Channel structure and complexity were listed by NOAA as major factors limiting listed steelhead and salmon populations in the interior Columbia River watershed. While the investment in engineering stream restoration projects is significant, our knowledge of how these structures impact nutrient retention and energy flows to aquatic food webs is lacking and prevents us from having a complete understanding of how restoration activities will alter directly fish populations. This is particularly true in the low nutrient streams of the Upper Columbia Basin. It is in this context that we propose work that would enhance the ability of scientists, policy makers and managers to understand and predict the impact of restoration activities on nutrient retention and aquatic food webs. Specifically, we propose to use planned and ongoing restoration activities in the Methow River Basin as study systems to 1) measure how log jam installation impacts nutrient retention through alterations in transient storage 2) determine the extent to which physical habitat restoration improves basal resource production and 3) model how restoration actions such as channel restoration or nutrient addition lead to increase production across a range of environments. The proposed work will directly enhance our ability to understand specifically how stream restorations control aquatic food webs (periphyton, macroinvertebrates and fish) through the mechanisms of transient storage and nutrient processing in rivers. The proposed work also addresses each of the 104B program’s training and outreach goals in that funding would support the entry of two junior faculty members into the field of water resources, facilitate the training and education of future scientists (two graduate students), provide material for undergraduate and graduate classes, and complement other ongoing work. This project will also provide data to support the development of larger proposals to federal funding agencies and programs such as NSF Hydrologic Sciences, USDA AFRI-Natural Resources, NSF Ecosystems, and NSF CAREER.