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  Ecosystem Restoration to Restore Water Quality: An Unrealized Opportunity for Practitioners and Researchers (25 pp, 764 KB) (EPA/600/R-03/144) November 2003

Restoration of ecosystems is increasingly proposed as a strategy for improving water quality. Although this approach makes intuitive sense, practitioners have received little guidance from researchers on the effectiveness of and concerns associated with particular techniques. Typically, research has targeted narrowly focused, discipline-specific topics.

Restoration ecology is unique because professionals were slow to recognize it as a stand-alone discipline. As governments debate the merits of implementing restoration programs, there is a need to justify and design such actions using data.

EPA is interested in restoration’s potential as a means to affect water quality. This raises several interesting issues, some of which are predominantly academic and others that have wide-ranging implications. The ad hoc development of restoration as a discipline makes it particularly susceptible to historic and regional influence. This document identifies patterns in the restoration literature that affect communication and therefore restoration science, particularly with regard to the goal of using restoration as a tool to improve water quality.

This review includes a representative set of 294 articles concerning riparian management and restoration. In order for a paper, book, or other contribution to be selected as representative, it had to discuss data in the context of riparian ecosystems and it had to discuss at least one of three subject categories:

  • Environmental management practice
  • Water quality
  • Riparian restoration

The literature review identified patterns that can lead to preconceptions and interfere with communication. The riparian management literature is unusually disparate; as a subject, it is covered in many journals and the projects are geographically dispersed. Thus, the concept of riparian restoration is approached from an unusual array of perspectives and with a wide variety of experiences. This condition has the high probability of promoting and fostering miscommunication. Among the new perspectives being brought to riparian management is a need to use restoration to improve water quality; attempting to focus restoration this narrowly will require ongoing communication.


Eric E. Jorgensen

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