Riparian Ecology, Management, and Restoration in California’s Great Central Valley
Thursday, August 14, 2014: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
306, Sacramento Convention Center
Andrew P. Rayburn, River Partners
Hillary M. White, H. T. Harvey & Associates Ecological Consultants; and
Virginia Matzek, Santa Clara University
Jaymee Marty, Vollmar Natural Lands Consulting
This session will focus on multi-benefit research, management, and restoration of riparian habitat along the major rivers flowing through California’s Great Central Valley. Once composed of broad swaths of dense streamside forests, sprawling oak woodlands, and a network of ox-bow lakes, sloughs, and wetlands, riparian communities were formerly maintained by active river processes linked to the timing of snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Approximately 95% of historical riparian habitat has been lost or altered in the Central Valley, replaced in large part by arguably the most intensive agricultural production system on the planet. Active river processes have been critically altered by a sophisticated network of dams for water storage and delivery, levees for flood protection, and diversions for irrigation. The few remaining riparian corridors are mostly restricted to narrow bands of degraded vegetation, disconnected from river floodplains and choked with invasive species. Consequently, the provision of critical ecosystem services (e.g., flood protection and attenuation, habitat for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, biodiversity support, water filtration, pollinator resources, and carbon storage) by riparian communities has been dramatically reduced, resulting in many negative impacts on both people and the land.
Utilizing novel methods and perspectives, numerous local, regional, and national stakeholders are working in collaboration to reverse this wide-spread trend of habitat degradation and conversion in the Central Valley. Central to these efforts is a focus on projects that provide multiple, often simultaneous benefits in order to address diverse objectives and to maximize return on investment of limited conservation funding. This session will highlight efforts by academic researchers, agency and non-profit scientists, private-sector consultants, and various stakeholder groups to understand, enhance, and restore critical riparian communities along major rivers in the Central Valley. Such efforts include targeted ecological research, state-of-the-art restoration projects at local- and landscape-scales, novel strategies to protect and conserve threatened and endangered species, and state-wide efforts to formulate coherent water policy. Reflecting the general theme of multi-benefit projects, presentations will also address ecosystem service provision, agricultural production, floodplain dynamics, invasive species, and the role of riparian communities in buffering effects of climate change.