Flows for floodplain forests: a successful riparian restoration

By: , and 



Throughout the 20th century, the Truckee River that flows from Lake Tahoe into the Nevada desert was progressively dammed and dewatered, which led to the collapse of its aquatic and riparian ecosystems. The federal designation of the endemic cui-ui sucker (Chasmistes cujus) as endangered prompted a restoration program in the 1980s aimed at increasing spring flows to permit fish spawning. These flows did promote cui-ui reproduction, as well as an unanticipated benefit, the extensive seedling recruitment of Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii) and sandbar willow (Salix exigua). Recruitment was scattered in 1983 but extensive in 1987, when the hydrograph satisfied the riparian recruitment box model that had been developed for other rivers. That model was subsequently applied to develop flow prescriptions that were implemented from 1995 through 2000 and enabled further seedling establishment. The woodland recovery produced broad ecosystem benefits, as evidenced by the return by 1998 of 10 of 19 riparian bird species whose populations had been locally extirpated or had declined severely between 1868 and 1980. The dramatic partial recovery along this severely degraded desert river offers promise that the use of instream flow regulation can promote ecosystem restoration along other dammed rivers worldwide.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Flows for floodplain forests: a successful riparian restoration
Series title BioScience
DOI 10.1641/0006-3568(2003)053[0647:FFFFAS]2.0.CO;2
Volume 53
Issue 7
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher American Institute of Biological Sciences
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description 10 p.
First page 647
Last page 656
Country United States
State California, Nevada
Other Geospatial Truckee River
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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