Indicators of riparian ecosystem condition for headwater coastal plain streams were identified from data obtained from a reference population of reaches ranging widely in ecological condition. Each indicator was associated with some facet of hydrologic, biogeochemical, and/or habitat functioning and to channel condition, riparian zone condition, or both. Variation in the condition of the indicators among reference reaches provided a framework for developing narratives that could be used to partition and score the condition of the indicators from 0 (severely altered) to 100 (relatively unaltered). The developed narratives were the basis for creating a scoring approach for assessing stream condition at the reach scale (100-m long × 60-m wide segment). This approach was designed to be a rapid, field-based assessment method (<1 h/site) that could be applied by resource professionals with several days of training in the method. Although most alterations to riparian reaches usually affect both channels and riparian zones together, the ability to score channel and riparian zone condition separately is useful for diagnosing problems and suggesting viable restoration options at the reach scale. The assessment method is also useful for comparing the condition of reaches relative to one another, thus offering guidance for prioritizing restoration efforts at a watershed scale.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Decision Sciences
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics