Case studies of riparian and watershed restoration in the southwestern United States—Principles, challenges, and successes

Open-File Report 2017-1091
By:  and 
Edited by: Barbara E. Ralston and Daniel A. Sarr



Globally, rivers and streams are highly altered by impoundments, diversions, and stream channelization associated with agricultural and water delivery needs. Climate change imposes additional challenges by further reducing discharge, introducing variability in seasonal precipitation patterns, and increasing temperatures. Collectively, these changes in a river or stream’s annual hydrology affects surface and groundwater dynamics, fluvial processes, and the linked aquatic and riparian responses, particularly in arid regions. Recognizing the inherent ecosystem services that riparian and aquatic habitats provide, society increasingly supports restoring the functionality of riparian and aquatic ecosystems.

Given the wide range in types and scales of riparian impacts, approaches to riparian restoration can range from tactical, short-term, and site-specific efforts to strategic projects and long-term collaborations best pursued at the watershed scale. In the spirit of sharing information, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center convened a workshop June 23-25, 2015, in Flagstaff, Ariz. for practitioners in restoration science to share general principles, successful restoration practices, and discuss the challenges that face those practicing riparian restoration in the southwestern United States. Presenters from the Colorado River and the Rio Grande basins, offered their perspectives and experiences in restoration at the local, reach and watershed scale. Outcomes of the workshop include this Proceedings volume, which is composed of extended abstracts of most of the presentations given at the workshop, and recommendations or information needs identified by participants. The organization of the Proceedings follows a general progression from local scale restoration to river and watershed scale approaches, and finishes with restoration assessments and monitoring.

Suggested Citation

Ralston, B.E., and Sarr, D.A., 2017, Case studies of riparian and watershed restoration in the southwestern United States—Principles, challenges, and successes: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017-1091, 116 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Section I. Restoration Principles and Approaches
  • Restoration Principles for Riparian Ecosystem Resilience
  • Section II. Local Scale Revegetation Projects
  • Use of the Biophysical Template for Riparian Restoration and Revegetation in the Southwest
  • Riparian Restoration in the Context of 21st Century Hydrology
  • The Reality of Climate Change and the Need for Genetics Approaches in Riparian, River and Watershed Restoration to Maintain Biodiversity in Changing Environments
  • Riparian Rehabilitation along the Colorado River: Successes and Challenges of a Pilot Project
  • Riparian restoration following tamarisk and Russian olive control in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
  • Riparian and Wetland Restoration Effects on Bird and Butterfly Communities on the Colorado River 
  • Tamarisk Beetle (Diorhabda spp.) in Arizona 
  • Colorado River Riparian Ecosystem Rehabilitation in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona
  • Section III. River-Scale Restoration
  • Channel Form and Riparian Vegetation: Relevant Temporal and Spatial Scales
  • Parsing Out the Effects of Non-native Vegetation Management on Channel Form and Riparian and Aquatic Habitat 
  • Riparian Conservation and Restoration Planning on the Colorado River in Utah 
  • Revegetating the Las Vegas Wash in the Lower Colorado River Basin
  • Riparian Restoration in the Colorado River Basin
  • Section IV. Watershed Scale Perspectives
  • Multi-scale Riparian Restoration Planning and Implementation on the Virgin and Gila Rivers 
  • Linking Forest Landscape Management and Climate Change to the Conservation of Riparian Habitat in the Grand Canyon 
  • Conducting Monitoring for a Public-Private Collaborative: Lessons from the Dolores River Restoration Partnership 
  • Developing a Monitoring Plan for the Verde River Cooperative Invasive Plant Management Plan
  • Section V. Monitoring following revegetation 
  • Monitoring Wetland Restoration Projects in Arizona within the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s In-Lieu Fee Restoration and NRDAR Programs 
  • Citizen Science along the Middle Rio Grande – Collecting Data on Ecosystem Change
  • Lessons Learned from Revegetation of Aggregate-Mined Areas Along a Large Western River
  • Section VI. Results of breakout group discussion and research needs ranking by workshop participants
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Case studies of riparian and watershed restoration in the southwestern United States—Principles, challenges, and successes
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2017-1091
DOI 10.3133/ofr20171091
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Office of Science Quality and Integrity
Description ix, 116 p.
Country United States
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details