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Science for Managing Riverine Ecosystems: Actions for the USGS Identified in the Workshop “Analysis of Flow and Habitat for Instream Aquatic Communities”

By Kenneth E. Bencala, David B. Hamilton, and James H. Petersen


Open-File Report 2006-1256

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Executive Summary

Federal and state agencies need improved scientific analysis to support riverine ecosystem management. The ability of the USGS to integrate geologic, hydrologic, chemical, geographic, and biological data into new tools and models provides unparalleled opportunities to translate the best riverine science into useful approaches and usable information to address issues faced by river managers. In addition to this capability to provide integrated science, the USGS has a long history of providing long-term and nationwide information about natural resources. The USGS is now in a position to advance its ability to provide the scientific support for the management of riverine ecosystems.

To address this need, the USGS held a listening session in Fort Collins, Colorado in April 2006. Goals of the workshop were to: 1) learn about the key resource issues facing DOI, other Federal, and state resource management agencies; 2) discuss new approaches and information needs for addressing these issues; and 3) outline a strategy for the USGS role in supporting riverine ecosystem management. Workshop discussions focused on key components of a USGS strategy: Communications, Synthesis, and Research.

The workshop identified 3 priority actions the USGS can initiate now to advance its capabilities to support integrated science for resource managers in partner government agencies and non-governmental organizations:

In addition, topical discussion groups on hydrology, geomorphology, aquatic habitat and populations, and socio-economic analysis and negotiation identified eleven important complementary actions required to advance the state of the science and to develop the tools for supporting decisions on riverine ecosystem management. These eleven actions lie within the continuum of Communications, Synthesis, and Research.


Executive Summary



Priority Actions to Undertake Now


1. Synthesize the existing science of riverine ecosystem processes to produce broadly applicable conceptual models


2. Enhance selected ongoing instream flow projects with complementary interdisciplinary studies


3. Design a long-term, watershed-scale research program that will substantively reinvent riverine ecosystem science



Long-Term Actions


1. Analyze the practice of collaboration used to establish environmental flows

2. Develop a conference to bring together process hydrologists, geomorphologists, social scientists, and ecologists to examine common ground, language, and understanding in environmental flows

3. Analyze socio-economic dimensions of instream flow protection

4. Develop a flow chart for environmental flow projects indicating when and how sediment transport and geomorphic processes should be taken into account, including a geomorphic classification that indicates potential for information transfer

5. Analyze factors that integrate riverine processes over multiple spatial scales

6. Incorporate geomorphic processes and sediment transport dynamics at channel and drainage-basin scales into environmental flow models and approaches

7. Develop modules for assessing factors affecting riverine ecosystems other than the direct effects of flow regime

8. Develop a set of standard habitat monitoring protocols

9. Promote mechanistic modeling approaches

10. Develop a national experimental design

11. Improve the scientific basis for prescribed flows


Appendix I. Contacts

Appendix II. Presenters, April 18, 2006

Appendix III. Discussion Participants, April 19, 2006

Appendix IV. Outlining Team, April 20, 2006

Suggested citation:
Bencala, K. E. , Hamilton, D. B. and Petersen, J. H., 2006, Science for Maintaining Riverine Ecosystems: Actions for the USGS Identified in the Workshop “Analysis of Flow and Habitat for Aquatic Communities”: USGS Open File Report 2006-1256.

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