Climate change and associated changes in streamflow may alter riparian habitats substantially in coming decades. Riparian restoration provides opportunities to respond proactively to projected climate change effects, increase riparian ecosystem resilience to climate change, and simultaneously address effects of both climate change and other human disturbances. However, climate change may alter which restoration methods are most effective and which restoration goals can be achieved. Incorporating climate change into riparian restoration planning and design is critical to long-term restoration of desired community composition and ecosystem services.
In this review, we discuss and provide examples of how climate change might be incorporated into restoration planning at the key stages of assessing the project context, establishing restoration goals and design criteria, evaluating design alternatives, and monitoring restoration outcomes. Restoration planners have access to numerous tools to predict future climate, streamflow, and riparian ecology at restoration sites. Planners can use those predictions to assess which species or ecosystem services will be most vulnerable under future conditions, and which sites will be most suitable for restoration. To accommodate future climate and streamflow change, planners may need to adjust methods for planting, invasive species control, channel and floodplain reconstruction, and water management. Given the considerable uncertainty in future climate and streamflow projections, riparian ecological responses, and effects on restoration outcomes, planners will need to consider multiple potential future scenarios, implement a variety of restoration methods, design projects with flexibility to adjust to future conditions, and plan to respond adaptively to unexpected change.