Floodplain Restoration – Defenders of Wildlife Blog

GR:  If you’ve ever wondered if we could get along without nature, if you’d like to know if the only plants we need are those we plant for food, and if you wonder if the only animals we need are those we ride or eat, you may find this article interesting. It’s concerned with maintaining and restoring one of nature’s essential functions and one of the richest types of ecosystems.

Restoring Floodplains: A Multi-Benefit Strategy in a Warming Climate

“The dramatic failure of the spillway at Oroville Dam and the evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents highlight the importance of effective flood management in California. After years of drought, Californians are suffering from water whiplash, with the current swing from drought to flood conditions.

“If you think something strange is happening here, you’re right. The last seven years have included a wet 2011, five years of drought (2012-2016) – four of which were the driest four-year period in state history – and now an extraordinarily wet 2017.

“This fluctuation from wet to dry – without anything approaching average conditions – is consistent with the projections of climate scientists. In 2011, the State of California warned “(a)s the climate warms, extreme events are expected to become more frequent, including wildfires, floods, droughts, and heat waves.”

“You don’t need to make a trek to the arctic to see on-the-ground impacts of climate change. Californians can simply look to their local rivers or the Sierra Nevada. The Sierra snowpack is now the largest in two decades – 177 percent of average. This comes just two years after a record low snowpack that was only 6 percent of average. Californians are already seeing more extreme weather events.

“The last five years taught Californians that we need to make conservation a way of life and that we must invest in tools like water recycling that are drought resilient. This year – and the weather patterns of the past seven years – teach us that California must prepare for floods as well.

How can we prepare for floods?

Floodplain:  The normal overflow zone that fills with water after rainfall. It must be large enough to handle the runoff from heavy rainfall, and it must be well vegetated with flood-tolerant shrubs and trees that slow the water. This is necessary to prevent erosion and the sudden arrival of too much water downstream. (Diagram from Wired.)

“One of the best ways is to restore portions of our historic floodplains to increase the ability of our rivers to handle high flows. We’ve seen the flood-protection benefits of floodplains this year. By opening gates to the Yolo Bypass floodplain, flood managers have lowered the risk to the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, and avoided potentially catastrophic flooding.” –Rachel Zwillinger (Continue reading:  Floodplain Restoration – Defenders of Wildlife Blog).

Should we put a price on nature?

Starfish near a dock at low tide, Vancouver Island, Canada (Jurgen Freund/Aurora Photos).

 “The west coast of Vancouver Island boasts the kind of wild shoreline that could swallow a kayaker for weeks. Crenellated with fjords and stippled with islands, it’s a place where old-growth stands of Doug-fir yield to rocky beaches, where black bears stalk the tidelines, and where, each March, some 20,000 gray whales cruise by en route to the Bering Sea. Yet even in this natural outpost, human enterprises clash: Cargo freighters and commercial fishermen spar over shipping lanes and fishing grounds; salmon- farmers and kayak guides struggle for control of coastal waters; -logging, mining and resort-building threaten seagrass beds.

“No one wants to go out there and wreck stuff,” Andrew Day, managing director of West Coast Aquatic, a local management board, told me. “But they disagree on the level of restriction that should be imposed to achieve different goals.” Anyone who’s taken part in a natural resource dispute will recognize the problem. How do you resolve all these conflicts?

“In 2010, Day got help from the Natural Capital Project, a Stanford-based cadre of economists, biologists and software engineers whose work meets at the increasingly crowded intersection of ecology, technology and finance. NatCap was founded in 2005 in order to tackle the very quandary faced by West Coast Aquatic — how to juggle clashing human and natural values. To clear up such dilemmas, NatCap’s scientists use their diverse talents to consider a question that seems simple but is actually bafflingly complex: What is nature worth?

“NatCap wasn’t the first group to address the problem. In 1997, a team of researchers pinned nature’s economic value at $33 trillion worldwide — nearly twice the global gross domestic product, or GDP. That immense value flows from ecosystem services, the natural benefits provided by everything from water-filtering shellfish to soil-forming microbes to storm-buffering reefs. The solution to ecological woes, many policymakers have concluded, lies in incorporating nature’s dollar value into decisions. Put a price on ecosystem services, the wisdom goes, and watch the polluters, over-fishers and developers fall into line” (read more).

Online Guidebook To Ecosystem Services Concepts for Federal Resource Managers and Planners

The FRMES project will culminate with publication of an online guidebook describing what ecosystem services are and why their identification and valuation can be useful to federal resource managers and planners. The guidebook provides a framework and methodology for ensuring consistent and credible application of the ecosystem services concept to planning and management efforts. It includes descriptions of how federal agencies are exploring or applying an ecosystem services framework. Laying the groundwork for the guidebook are two papers that explain how the Federal Land Management and Policy Act of 1976 and the National Environmental Policy Act enable or limit agencies’ incorporation of ecosystem services approaches into federal planning and management processes.

The FRMES Guidebook will be unveiled at the A Community on Ecosystem Services Conference in Washington, D.C., December 8–12, 2014. Several events at the conference will focus on this guidebook including:

  • A pre-conference workshop delving into some of the methods for integrating ecosystem services into planning processes
  • A special session reviewing how agencies are integrating ecosystem services into planning and management activities
  • A special session discussing the data and modeling infrastructure needed to successfully conduct ecosystem services assessments nationwide

Source: nicholasinstitute.duke.edu

GR:  Concerned scientists have been working hard to bring nature conservation into mainstream land use management. The work focuses on defining the value of nature to humans. What is the monetary value of a watershed, and so forth. This year and next, the project will issue several publications that may help in the battles to save the species required for ecosystems to work.