Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology

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SUSE4 Track descriptions and program

Click HERE to download the preliminary agenda.

For much of the meeting, we will organize into tracks to discuss specific challenges and opportunities related to urban stream restoration. The track breakout sessions will be facilitated by 2 leaders, and will include 8-12 people. Track participants will structure the conversation and define the outcomes/deliverables of the track. Participants do not need to bring data or any resources; within-track discussions throughout the meeting will rely on personal experiences and ideas generated by group members. The idea is to pick a track that you are most interested in spending 3 days (& potentially more beyond the meeting) discussing challenges and formulating solutions. This can be a topic that you have a lot of expertise in or a topic that is relatively new to you. Participants will have opportunities to provide input into the other tracks, but they are required to stick with the same track for the entire meeting.

You can indicate your preferences for what track you want to follow during the supplemental registration. We will try to place everyone in their preferred track, but we are requesting that you also list 2nd and 3rd choice options in case certain tracks are oversubscribed.

Track Descriptions

1. Maximizing nitrogen removal in urban watersheds: While many urban streams may never achieve the ecological integrity of non-urban streams, they can still provide important ecosystem services. One of these, nutrient retention/removal, is particularly important in coastal areas and where there are downstream lakes or impoundments subject to eutrophication. Several studies have documented denitrification and nutrient retention in urban streams, but few studies have examined holistic management for nitrogen removal. This track could result in a synthesis of the existing literature along with creative ideas for holistic management, and other products.

2. Innovations and opportunities in urban water management: Urban water connects coupled natural-built systems and underpins the long-term health and resilience of all human settlements, from small towns to mega-regions. The complexity of urban water systems defies disciplinary boundaries and requires a systems approach. As urban water managers develop a more holistic vision for restoring hydrologic processes and incorporating natural infrastructure into cities, new opportunities for improving urban streams are emerging. This track explores how growing interest in comprehensive urban water management, green infrastructure, sustainable urban drainage systems and flood resilience can be leveraged to re-establish urban stream/floodplain corridors that increase resilience while simultaneously supporting biodiversity and providing many other co-benefits including social well-being.

3. Using real time sensors for real time management: Urban streams are occasionally subject to acute events such as sewer line leaks and toxic spills, in addition to the chronic effects of stormwater runoff. A basic tenet of biomonitoring is that organisms integrate the effects of past acute events that may not be evident in periodic water quality monitoring. Often ignored is the role of real-time response to such episodes: rapid detection and management may greatly reduce impacts. Continuous monitoring of indicators of contamination such as conductivity are affordable, measurements can be streamed to computers in real time via the cellular data networks. This track could discuss new developments in real-time monitoring and rapid response systems, their potential for improving overall urban stream condition, challenges associated with (and solutions to) the large volume of data generated, and the role of volunteer groups and non-governmental actors in such monitoring systems.

4. Determining endpoints and monitoring responses to watershed scale restoration: Undertaking a watershed scale restoration requires large resource inputs and intricate, long-term coordination, but how do we make sure that all that effort is producing desired results? A first step is to clearly define the realistic endpoints of restoration. Importantly, these endpoints should acknowledge that urban streams are unlikely to achieve the structure and function of streams in watersheds with little anthropogenic influence. Metrics of restoration success may include conditions that are most important to stakeholders (which may include socio-economic metrics) or metrics that are the best ecological indicators of recovery. In addition to considering restoration endpoints, monitoring plans must also consider where to monitor and for how long. This track will focus on defining appropriate endpoints for urban stream restoration and developing a skeletal monitoring plan that could be applicable to a variety of watershed-scale restoration projects and used by managers and scientists to assess restoration success.

5. Prioritization of subwatersheds for restoration and protection: Watersheds are often comprised of a mix of healthy, functional stream reaches and degraded reaches. Although it is obvious to protect intact, healthy portions of our watersheds, how we prioritize, acquire, and manage these lands? For degraded streams, managers must determine where to focus restoration efforts within a watershed. Prioritizing restoration in a subset of watersheds allows for focused efforts to maximize the potential for improving stream ecosystems. However, how do managers decide what subwatersheds to focus on restoring? What is a reasonable size watershed for focused efforts? This track aims to develop a flow chart and other tools to help managers make decisions about where to prioritize restoration and protection/preservation efforts.

6. Socio-cultural and institutional barriers to watershed scale restoration: Urban stream management and improvement projects too often take a fragmented, piecemeal approach that does not address the proper scale of impairment. What’s more, socio-cultural components of these projects are included on an ad hoc basis or are opportunistic (rather than incorporated into the initial project designs). Scale mismatches exist among human impacts, watershed processes, political jurisdictions, and personal property boundaries, and management approaches tend to be narrow or isolated. Watersheds are complex socio-political entities and improvement projects may face ecological and socio-cultural barriers at multiple scales. This track focuses on understanding the socio-cultural connections of local communities to urban streams and how to develop innovative ways to of addressing these barriers through long-term support and stewardship.

7. Multiple threats and stressors: restoration in a complex landscape: Most streams, especially those in urban environments, are faced with multiple threats occurring at local and global scales,, including: land use alteration, invasive species, waste disposal, dams, hydropower, water withdrawals, climate change, and others. These threats can affect hydrology, habitat, temperature, nutrients, contaminants, and other stressors that interact additively, synergistically, or antagonistically to result in altered stream ecosystems. These multiple, interacting threats and stressors can be overwhelming to both scientists and managers, yet if we are to understand and effectively manage and urban streams, multiple threats and stressors must be addressed. How can we design studies to assess interactions? Should we prioritize restoration based on the numbers and types of threats? Can we use adaptive management to sequentially manage different stressors and provide opportunities for learning? These and other questions will be explored in this track with the goal of creating a guideline for how managers should address multiple threats and stressors.

8. Extreme events in urban landscapes– designing resilience? One of the primary services provided by urban streams is to drain flood waters during extreme rain events. However, maximizing this service may come at the expense of other services. It is also a challenge to design engineered in-stream habitat structures that can withstand extreme flow events. Impending changes in the frequency and magnitude of such extreme events associated with climate change complicates this challenge further. This track will explore how the urban landscape can be designed for resilience to extreme events (which could include droughts as well as floods) without compromising the provision of a range of services by urban streams. Discussions may also include how to capitalize on opportunities for learning and transformative change in watershed management following extreme events.

9. Unique challenges of identifying and managing headwater urban streams: It all happens in the headwaters, but we are usually a day late and a dollar short. Often ephemeral, many have been buried and piped or simply filled. Most are channelized and simplified, minimizing their ecosystem services. Rarely recognizable as a stream, the public sees them as ditches, easily exploited or ignored. How do we fix developed watersheds, when we know the best place to start is in the headwaters, but the damage is most severe and their value is unrecognized? What methods should we be using to protect headwaters and potentially rehabilitate their ecological function? Where do the headwaters start and end, and what are the scales of management? This track will focus on the small drainages of the city in the development of a toolbox to identify, protect and restore these critical capillaries of our water resources.

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