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How alternative urban stream channel designs influence ecohydraulic conditions.

  • Author(s): Anim, Desmond O;
  • Fletcher, Tim D;
  • Vietz, Geoff J;
  • Burns, Matthew J;
  • Pasternack, Gregory B
  • et al.

Streams draining urban catchments ubiquitously undergo negative physical and ecosystem changes, recognized to be primarily driven by frequent stormwater runoff input. The common management intervention is rehabilitation of channel morphology. Despite engineering design intentions, ecohydraulic benefits of urban channel rehabilitation are largely unknown and likely limited. This investigation uses an ecohydraulic modeling approach to investigate the performance of alternative channel design configurations intended to restore key ecosystem functioning in urban streams. Channel reconfiguration design scenarios, specified to emulate the range of channel topographic complexity often used in rehabilitation are compared against a reference 'natural' scenario using ecologically relevant hydraulic metrics. The results showed that the ecohydraulic conditions were incremental improved with the addition of natural oscillations to an increasing number of individual topographic variables in a degraded channel. Results showed that reconfiguration reduced excessive frequency of bed mobility, loss of habitat and hydraulic diversity particularly as more topographic variables were added. However, the results also showed that none of the design scenarios returned the ecohydraulics to their reference conditions. This indicate that channel-based restoration can offer some potential changes to hydraulic habitat conditions but are unlikely to completely mitigate the effects of hydrologic change. We suggest that while reach-scale channel modification may be beneficial to restore urban stream, addressing altered hydrology is critical to fully recover natural ecosystem processes.

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