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Monitoring framework to evaluate effectiveness of aquatic and floodplain habitat restoration activities for native fish along the Willamette River, northwestern Oregon

September 7, 2022

Since 2008, large-scale restoration programs have been implemented along the Willamette River, Oregon, to address historical losses of floodplain habitats caused by dam construction, bank protection, large wood removal, land conversion, and other anthropogenic influences. The Willamette Focused Investment Partnership (WFIP) restoration initiative brings together more than 16 organizations to improve floodplain habitats on more than 35,000 hectares upstream from Willamette Falls with the overarching goal to expand and enhance native fish habitats through the following restoration activities implemented along the floodplains and off-channel areas of the Willamette River: (A) modify floodplain topography and human-made barriers to inundation; (B) enhance gravel pits; (C) remove revetments; (D) construct off-channel features; (E) increase and enhance floodplain forest vegetation; and (F) treat aquatic invasive plant species (AIS). The WFIP Effectiveness Monitoring Program was initiated to inform future refinement of Willamette River restoration program goals and activities and has three goals: (1) evaluate the effectiveness of different restoration activities at increasing and enhancing native fish habitat, (2) improve overall understanding of the physical and ecological responses associated with different restoration activities undertaken by the WFIP, and (3) relate site-scale responses to restoration with broader patterns of fish communities, hydrogeomorphology, stream temperature, and vegetation across the Willamette River floodplain, so that the relative importance of restoration activities on habitat availability for native fish can be assessed.

A monitoring framework was developed to evaluate effectiveness of floodplain restoration activities at increasing and enhancing habitat for native fish in the Willamette River corridor, northwestern Oregon. This framework describes monitoring indicators, metrics, and approaches for evaluating responses in native fish communities and physical habitat conditions to restoration activities and determining effectiveness of restoration activities at improving habitats for native fish. The monitoring indicators and approaches are grouped into five restoration monitoring categories that are useful for characterizing ecological and physical habitat responses to restoration activities: fish, hydrogeomorphology, floodplain forest vegetation, birds, and AIS. This monitoring framework provides a common science foundation to support collaborative decisions on future interdisciplinary effectiveness monitoring activities for Willamette River restoration programs. To evaluate restoration effectiveness, data must be evaluated according to metrics and thresholds that permit direct comparison between habitat conditions at the restoration site and restoration program goals; this framework provides examples of metrics and thresholds for evaluating data, recognizing that the precise evaluation criteria for a particular site or program will need to be tailored to meet program questions and available resources. Refining restoration goals and activities as part of an adaptively managed process requires addressing critical uncertainties between restoration goals, restoration activities, and outcomes for habitats used by native fish. Although the monitoring activities of this framework will generate important datasets useful for evaluating restoration effectiveness, additional research, syntheses, and reporting is ultimately necessary to provide a common science foundation to support adaptively managed restoration programs. This report is intended as a resource for restoration program managers, practitioners, scientists, and contractors as they develop detailed annual monitoring plans for data collection and identify the monitoring indicators, metrics, and approaches that are appropriate for evaluating effectiveness of different restoration activities.

Publication Year 2022
Title Monitoring framework to evaluate effectiveness of aquatic and floodplain habitat restoration activities for native fish along the Willamette River, northwestern Oregon
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221037
Authors Mackenzie K. Keith, J. Rose Wallick, Rebecca L. Flitcroft, Tobias J. Kock, Laura A. Brown, Rich Miller, Joan C. Hagar, Kathleen Guillozet, Krista L. Jones
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1037
Index ID ofr20221037
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosys Science Center; Oregon Water Science Center