Stream restoration is the action of restoring a stream to its natural state or to the optimal state that will help improve the overall health of the stream. Typically, it does so by stabilizing the channel, making a livable habitat for a multitude of species, reducing erosion, and reducing downstream sedimentation that can result from the erosion.
When streams are not properly taken care of, they can run into the problem of having excessive sediment and erosion problems. This makes it so there is an increased threat of flooding and excessive sediment can flow downstream into the banks of our watersheds, like the Chesapeake Bay. This sediment then clogs up our waterways and makes our water unsafe for drinking. It also messes up natural habitats of fish and leads to the death of many fish, who can no longer be hunted, thus disrupting the natural food chain.
As you can see, there is a domino effect that changes the livelihood of more than just water creatures when a stream is not at its healthiest. This disrupts so many natural processes as well.
So, how can we change this? We can do so by promoting the benefits and importance of stream restoration. Stream restorations work to improve the quality of the ecosystem, oxygenate the water, and, promote biodiversity.
There are several techniques that can be used to perform stream restoration; these techniques require the conjoined work of engineers, scientists, landscape architects, surveyors, farmers, wildlife specialists, climate scientists, and more. These techniques include, but are not limited to, building cross vanes, step pools, brush layering, log vanes, grading and planting, planting, adding woody debris, and installing concrete stream crossing for vehicles/livestock to cross without disruption.
One way that you can enhance the techniques is by understanding and preserving the riparian buffers that surround the riverbeds. By making the riparian buffers stronger, you can make the whole ecosystem function better. Riparian buffers make the temperature surrounding the river cooler, provide shade for animals, and stabilize the soil around the river by growing plants whose roots grow deep within the soil (thus holding it in place). Sometimes though, the riparian buffers can have invasive species, so, many volunteer groups take volunteers to remove these invasive species to ensure the ecosystem can thrive again.
All of these techniques have been proven to make for better streams and stronger ecosystems, something we should all get behind. If you like clean drinking water, eating seafood, using waterways as recreation, and viewing the majestic waterways of the United States, you should get behind stream restoration too.
You can check out the ways in which targeted stream restoration has helped to rebuild nature on this Maryland farm, by watching this video. You can also read about the best management practices for stream restoration written by the VA DEQ.