Case Studies

Day #2 of the Riparian Summit will focus on case study “success stories” representing strategies and partnerships that have advanced multiple goals, dovetailed with area plans and community needs, or improved the extent and quality of riparian systems.

Central Coast

Organized by: Kevin O’Connor, California State University, Monterey

The goal of this session is to share new riparian monitoring and management methods in development on the central coast of California. There will be three presentations discussing new methods to monitor and enhance riparian systems on the central coast, followed by a short panel discussion.

Cosumnes River

Organized by: Josh Viers, University of California, Merced

Small enough to be manageable, but large enough to be meaningful best describes the thirty-plus years of scientific insights that have emerged from the ecosystem science conducted along the lower Cosumnes River. In partnership with a consortium of agencies and non-governmental organization that serve as the land owners and land managers within the Cosumnes River Preserve, scientists have participated in a long-running, multi-disciplinary endeavor to better understand the natural flow regime, floodplain dynamics, and process-based restoration as it benefits riparian forests and wildlife, ephemeral aquatic ecosystems, and other components of a tightly coupled hydrological system that benefits from access to floodplains. Singularly, it has been the experimental nature of levee failures, levee breaches, and levee setbacks along the lower Cosumnes River corridor that have provided three decades of insights about natural flood frequencies, floodplain inundation, geomorphic dynamism, hydrochorous dispersal and establishment, carbon sequestration, groundwater recharge, freshwater primary productivity, food web structure and dynamics, native fish and bird population recovery, as well as coupled natural-human systems. These insights, showing that dynamic fluvial processes are necessary to create and maintain floodplain riparian ecosystems, now serve as the basis for many restoration efforts throughout California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River watershed and beyond. This session brings together the many perspectives on how the Cosumnes Experiment has unfolded and how these insights can be transferred to other contexts and locations.

Lake Tahoe

Organized by: Shana Gross, U.S. Forest Service

Prized for its stunningly clear water, Lake Tahoe is referred to by many as the jewel of the Sierra. It is recognized nationally and globally as a natural resource of significance and is designated as an Outstanding National Resource Water under the Clean Water Act.  Past land uses combined with present day use impacts required the development of regulations for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) in order to support actions to reduce excessive pollutant inputs to the lake.

The US Forest Service has collaborated successfully over the past 15 years with local, state, and federal partners to accomplish riparian restoration.  These restoration projects have been implemented in wildland and urban environments to achieve multiple benefits, focusing on ecosystem function to improve water quality, wildlife habitat, as well as providing high quality recreation.  The projects implemented in the Lake Tahoe Basin used a range of techniques and tools, which have been successful/resilient during both drought and flood events.  The short term responses (over last 12 years) suggest the techniques employed in the Lake Tahoe Basin will be continue to be resilient under future climate, at least in the near term.

We will present several projects that cover restoration in meadow, channel, floodplain, and aspen ecosystems.  The projects presented in this session cover a range of watershed condition, constraints, and treatment approaches.  The projects presented in this session were designed to provide the short term stability, such that the treatments become naturalized over time as they mesh with the hydrology and sediment transport setting.

North Coast

Organized by: Chad Roberts, Independent Conservation Ecologist

Northwestern California includes riparian areas that are among the most complex in California, providing ecological services and beneficial uses for riparian transition zones, from uplands to aquatic areas, in a region with high public and agency interest in those resources. This session focuses on applications of scientific information to regulatory and management applications within the region from the Russian River basin to the Oregon border. The session’s objectives will be to improve the basis for riparian area protection, enhancement, and restoration; to share recent developments in understanding riparian areas among riparian advocates; and to inspire broad application of science to riparian areas throughout the region.

Putah Creek

Organized by: Rich Marovich, Solano County Water Agency

[Description Pending]


Sacramento River

Organized by: Greg Golet, The Nature Conservancy

This case study will include a diverse set of talks focused on Sacramento River wildlife populations and their habitats, and efforts underway to restore and better understand them. They will highlight habitat management and restoration projects designed to meet the needs of wildlife while maintaining important human uses of the floodplain. They will also showcase large-scale restoration projects that are being implemented to achieve multiple benefits for nature and people. A recurring theme in the talks is the importance of natural river processes in maintaining river health and ecosystem services.

Santa Clara River

Organized by: Bruce Orr, Stillwater Sciences

[Description Pending]


Sierra Nevada Meadows

Leading from the Top – Partnership, Progress, and Possibility

Organized by: Ryan Burnett, Point Blue Conservation Science

A significant portion of the water that flows through the riparian areas of California originates in the Sierra Nevada. Atop these important watersheds lie the first riparian habitats in the system: meadows. Meadows represent less than 1 percent of the Sierra landscape, but they are disproportionately important for the ecological services they render. Functional meadows are hotspots for biodiversity, attenuate floods, store carbon and water, and improve water quality. Unfortunately a majority of meadows have been degraded, reducing the quality and quantity of these ecological services, and climate change threatens to exacerbate these effects. Efforts are underway to restore and protect the meadows in the Sierra Nevada region. In this session we will hear about the partnership that has been formed and its ambitious goal to restore and protect Sierra Meadows in the next decade, as well as a number of projects that detail success stories and highlight the further work required to protect these unique riparian areas for wildlife and people—from quantifying carbon benefits of restoration for California’s emerging GHG market, to using beavers to restore degraded meadows, and responses of biodiversity to previously restored meadows. We will explore the factors that have led to successes that may be applied to other systems and identify barriers to increasing the pace, scale, and benefits of meadow restoration and conservation in the next decade.

Fog and Riparian Corridors

A systems approach for management, restoration, and planning

Organized by: Alicia Torregrosa, U.S. Geological Survey

Coastal fog is a dominant climatic influence for watersheds and the riparian corridors that harbor several endangered species.  A biogeohydrographic approach to the water cycle of coastal ecosystems helps to spatiotemporally quantify the pinch points that affect population & vegetation dynamics of coastal fog dominated riparian areas.  This session serves as a primer on coastal fog and links to the ecosystem functions in this ocean-atmosphere-terrestrial system.

Private Lands

The Power of Partnerships with Private Lands Riparian Research, Restoration, Enhancement and Management

Organized by: Wendell Gilgert, Point Blue Conservation Science

Riparian restoration, enhancement and management with attendant scientific research continues to expand riparian habitat on diverse private working landscapes of California.  This Symposium will provide an overview of long-term and recent riparian projects on both farm and ranch lands.  We will present multiple perspectives from partners and collaborator who work directly to accomplish substantive riparian restoration and enhancements with attendant management.

The opening presentations of the workshop will feature landowner perspectives and experience as they collaborated with an array of partners to plan, design, implement and in some cases extensively monitor their riparian projects.  The afternoon session will highlight additional diverse partnerships that enable riparian projects on working lands.  Each presentation will feature two presenters from each project.

Presentations will include farmers and ranchers from, Alameda, Butte, Glenn Marin, Merced, Nevada, Tehama Counties, Sierra Foothill, Sonoma and Marin Agricultural Land Trusts, several Resource Conservation Districts, US Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Center for Land Based Learning SLEWS (Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship),Point Blue Conservation Science’s STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) Program, Sonoma Mountain Institute, Audubon,  a Sonoma State University Graduate Student and private consultants.

Wet Ecosystems in the Arid Southwest 

Multiscale Perspectives From a Landscape Where Water is Everything

Organized by: Rob Klinger, U.S. Geological Survey

Wet ecosystems in the arid southwest region of the United States (river systems, spring and seep systems, and wetlands) differ from much of the rest of the continent in being unique features embedded in an extensive matrix of very dry upland areas. Many of these ecosystems, even portions of the larger rivers, are ephemeral or intermittent, and many or even most of the spring and wetland systems depend on recharge from groundwater. They provide water to huge metropolitan areas hundreds or even thousands of miles away, as well as many small, scattered local communities. They are the areas of greatest biological diversity in the region, but many have also been heavily altered by invasive species. Their biological values and critical importance to humans make them the most valuable resource in the arid southwest, but conflicting conservation and anthropogenic values, especially in a shifting climate, make their management among the most complex challenges in the nation.

The case studies in this session will examine different perspectives, needs, and considerations in the management of riparian and wetland ecosystems in the arid southwest. The studies will represent scales ranging from an entire ecoregion to local remnant patches of what was once an extensive marsh. The speakers will address issues that include climate adaptation for changing hydrologic processes, trophic cascades that occur as an outcome of controlling an invasive species as an initial step in the management of large river systems, the implication of shifting flood regimes on vegetation dynamics and management of large river systems, and the integration of endangered species management with wetland restoration and management.