BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The nation's $1 billion stream restoration
industry needs to do more to ensure that projects are guided by
science, according to the co-editor of a new American Geophysical
Union monograph reviewing the state of the field.
"There needs to be research behind solutions," said University
at Buffalo geography professor Sean J. Bennett, who edited the book
with Andrew Simon of Cardno ENTRIX and Janine M. Castro of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Right now, it's an industry-driven field," Bennett continued.
"Private enterprises and consultants complete projects for clients,
relying primarily on experience -- on what worked in the past. But
you cannot import technology from other locations with different
topographies and ecosystems and expect the same result."
Stream restoration encompasses a wide range of activities, such
as bringing fish and other wildlife back to a river, or replacing
lost vegetation on banks to prevent erosion.
Because practice has outpaced research, projects on real
waterways often turn out to be experiments themselves, and many
fail. People undertake a project without fully understanding which
restoration techniques work, or how a river will respond to the
The new AGU monograph, "Stream Restoration in Dynamic Fluvial
Systems: Scientific Approaches, Analyses, and Tools," provides
detailed explanations of best practices grounded in science. Topics
covered include using wood in stream restoration, controlling
debris at bridges, stabilizing river banks, and more. Dozens of
researchers contributed to the book.
Bennett's goal is to bridge the gap between academia and
practice. He notes that many companies, grassroots organizations
and government agencies are doing valuable work in the field.
However, he believes that researchers and practitioners need to
become better partners to ensure that money spent on waterways is
not wasted. One widely-cited
analysis from 2005 estimated that agencies across the United
States spent an average of about $1 billion each year on river
Scientists are still trying to understand what works and what
doesn't work in stream restoration, and industry participation will
be key to achieving those objectives, Bennett said. Today, it's
difficult to evaluate the success of restoration projects because
private firms are reluctant to share data that may give them an
edge over their competitors.
To encourage better communication, Bennett is educating students
-- who may become practitioners -- about the value of
research-tested solutions. In June, he will be an instructor in a
series of UB workshops on ecosystem restoration.
Bennett is also active in UB's Ecosystem Restoration through
Interdisciplinary Exchange (ERIE) program, which organizes a
variety of activities devoted to restoration. ERIE offerings
include an Integrative Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT)
program for PhD candidates and a summer Research Experiences for
Undergraduates (REU) program, both funded by the National Science
UB's Engineering for Ecosystem Restoration Summer Workshop
UB's ERIE Integrative Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT)
UB's ERIE Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program: