Onboarding Training - Restoration and Tending of Vegetation and Hydrology

From Salish Sea Wiki

Wiki Rules

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Link to List of Efforts Link to List of Products Link to List of Documents Link to List of Graphics Link to List of Websites

Link to Delta Sites Link to Embayment Sites Link to Beach Sites Link to Rocky Headland Sites

Link to Headwater Sites Link to Lowland Watershed Sites Link to Floodplain Sites

This is a self-study resource for working to restore and tend vegetation, soils, and hydrology in the Salish Sea. The resource is divided into five units that follow the process of developing an on-the-ground project. First, we understand the Salish Sea landscape and the historical context of ecosystem stewardship. This helps us develop ways of thinking and seeing, and refine our purposes for doing work. Then we assess an actual ecological and social system we are working in, to figure out where and how those purposes can be fulfilled. Next, we negotiate land access and secure the resources necessary to work at a site. Then we are able to design specific interventions at a "patch scale", the only scale at which we physically operate. Finally, we do the work and observe the results.

  1. Context - The big picture of Southern Salish Sea climate, geology and ecology, and how colonization changed land use and ecosystem functions.
  2. Landscape Assessment - where we consider how to assess a specific place and where we might restore ecosystem functions.
  3. Steward Development - were we approach public and private land managers about working their land, and questions of tenure.
  4. Patch Design - where we finally develop a scope and sequence of work to modify a chunk of a landscape.
  5. Implementation & Evaluation - where we use tools to do work and learn from our adventures.

Things rarely happen in this linear way, and over the course of work, we iterate, continuously revisiting earlier steps.

This training resource is biased. It considers the work if stewardship using several frameworks:

This resource includes some links to copyrighted publications not posted on the wiki, and access must be personally requested as a fair use from Paul Cereghino (talk)

1. Context

All riparian restoration occurs at a patch scale, however each patch exists within a landscape context. Cereghino 2018 provides a detailed conceptual framework for assessment. That way of thinking is pretty abstract. Below are some topics essential to the work and some resources that are more practical.

Best Available Science

Restoring stream and wetlands landscapes requires the integration of diverse areas of specialized knowledge. For this reason restoration is an interdisciplinary practice. Holding a jumble of different pieces of knowledge doesn't mean you assembled a craft. These are starting points, and iteration between field practice and science is particularly important.

  • Climate - There are many online materials describing climate. I provide a variety of chapters from Paul's Library that interpret our climate. In addition the Eight Season Year is my own interpretation, and is expanded in The Cycles of Plant-Soil Work.
  • Landform - The topography of Puget Sound, when exposed to the deluge of rain, creates a pattern of ecosystems, each with a distinct set of processes. I am unaware of good resources that provide an overview and interpretation of Puget Sound landforms, but it is overdue, perhaps beginning with a not-yet-created Landforms page. Ecosystems introduces the landform taxonomy used in the wiki. The PSNERP study, particularly Shipman 2008 offers nearshore landforms. Hydrogeomorphic Wetland Classification begins to pull apart various kinds of "floodplains" (all lakes and wetlands are essentially flood plains.) Montgomery 1999 introduces "process domains" along the river continuum.
  • Soils - The Soils page contains a range of free resources.
  • Vegetation Ecology - Vegetation and Revegetation is a good starting place on the wiki. I think it is also important to understand Grimes 2006 and its implications. Among local assessments, I'd recommend the opening of Klinka et al 1989 which can be requested from Paul's Library.
  • Environmental Horticulture - This is a useful topic, because it helps us interpret plant physiology through the lens of being a victim of horticulture, which involves a unique range of tortures and tests for plants.
  • Riparian Best Available Science - WDFW has produced the authoritative guide [[
  • Wetland Best Available Science - Wetland science is important because the hydrologic gradient and the unique dynamics of saturated environments is so important in aquatic ecosystems.

History of Colonization

The current pattern of land use has been modified by an ongoing process of colonization, where an industrial template is being applied incrementally to replace bioregionally evolved systems with standard forms of land use based on a global industrial production model. To understand local context, it is useful to notice the intensity and severity of this change, and select a strategy that is well matched to actual ecosystem state.

  • Beaver Eradication
  • Tribal Disenfranchisement
  • Deforestation
  • Floodplain Simplification
  • Industrial Toxins
  • Watershed Dehydration
  • Stormwater Toxins
  • Climate Change

2. Landscape Assessment

While restoration involves people working in ecosystems, their ideas are motivated by institutions and ideas in their heads. Both human systems and ecological systems need to be part of the landscape assessment, or they will be factors that are either ignored or assumed.

Sociological Landscape

We do ecosystem work, because someone is willing to pay for ecosystem work. To ignore this part of the pattern, only focusing on subsidiary narratives (where individual institutions make a value proposition in order to justify programs) does not help you become aware of the range of competing narratives, and the structure of the social systems that drive on-the-ground activities. To make sense of how we work in landscapes, we need to understand the social systems that compel that work, and direct our attention and energy by offering or withholding resources.

Tensions - people do work in aquatic ecosystems for a reason. Those reasons drive public and private funding for implementation. Securing resources depends on framing proposed work in the context of what I will call "tensions". In this case, "tensions" are the perceived problems which enabled the creation of public authorities which compel work.

    • Endangered Species Act & Salmon Recovery - In 1999, Puget Sound Chinook Salmon were listed as threatened with extinction in Puget Sound, followed by Hood Canal Summer Chum Salmon, Southern Resident Killer Whale, Puget Sound Bulltrout, Puget Sound Steelhead Salmon. This initiated a program of Salmon Recovery.
    • Puget Sound Estuary Recovery
    • Water Quality Concerns
    • Tribal Treaty Rights - In 2011 the NW
    • Private Property Rights
    • Farmland Preservation
    • Environmental Policy Acts - Both SEPA and NEPA govern state and federal actions. Most funding is provided by state and federal agencies, funding is an "action" and so the effects of funding are governed by the State and National Environmental Policy Acts, which requires that agencies consider the effects of their actions. This is a procedural law.

The Funding System

Riparian work is typically driven by a complex state and federal funding system. Considering how projects will be funded may be important in organizing planning, so that planning sets the stage for a site access and design effort that leads directly and efficiently to implementation.

Ecological Landscape

  • Landform - post glacial landscape
  • Hydrology
  • Levels of Permanence
  • Biogeographic Assessment and Climate Change
  • Geomorphic Assessment
  • Hydrologic Assessment
  • Land Use Considerations
  • Forest Health Assessment
  • Properly functioning condition
  • Wood budget and cycles
  • Invasive species context
  • Floodplain processes

Assessment Frameworks

There is not end to frameworks you can use to assess a conservation situation. Some frameworks are blunt and mechanistic. Other frameworks are broader and more philosophical. Matching the assessment method to the problem at hand is an art and craft. There is not standard method for assessment

  • Open Standards for Conservation Practice - the open standards for conservation practice were developed by The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Foundation to organize thinking about conservation intervention. By defining a systematic conceptual process, you can better present, plan, remember, and evaluate conservation activities. The Puget Sound Partnership uses in part the Miradi Platform, informed as a tool for Open Standards work, in its coordination of Puget Sound Recovery. The Open Standards are related to the DPSIR framework, widely adopted among European Agencies for evaluating complex systems.
  • Ecosystem-based Restoration
  • Process-based Restoration - Increasingly, science-based groups working in dynamic ecosystems like to consider "physiographic processes" in assessment, which are the physical processes which create the physical environment in which habitats form to which target species are adapted. Along shorelines, this work was advanced by PSNERP as exemplified in Goetz et al 2004, and was referenced in freshwater environments in seminal papers like Montgomery 1999 process domains and river continuum. Process-based restoration has re-emerged in headwater systems in the context of Stage Zero Restoration.
  • Gann et al 2019 - The Society for Ecological Restoration

3. Steward Development

Restoration entities are rarely the owners or direct managers of the land upon which they work. The restoration effort revolves around identifying a willing landowner or manager, and establishing a relationship that leads to restoration.

Land Tenure

A restoration operator needs some kind of formal agreement to do work on land. Generally, good quality restoration involving the most basic revegetation takes no less than five to seven years. Successional management of complex vegetation can take a lifetime. To reconstruct robust and ecologically resilient landscapes requires some kind of land tenure.

  • Parcel data - most jurisdictions have some kind of on-line map service that allows you to review property boundaries, regulated natural features, and aerial photographs. Usually these services let you observe County Assessor records, which includes the current parcel ownership.
  • Outreach strategies
  • Landowner preferences - A variety of programs have, over time, conducted surveys of landowners about whether and how they would like a government official helping them with stewardship. This provides insight into how people think about their land, ecosystems, and governments.
  • Tenure Instruments - There are a range of typical ways that conservation interests establish tenure, the most common being: fee simple acquisition, conservation easements, leases, and landowner agreements.
  • Buffer Conflicts - There has been a long history of social conflict around property rights, and the responsibilities of private land owners under local, state, federal law, including tribal rights assured under treaty.

Securing Resources

4. Patch Design

Restoration occurs in patches, where the treatment scope and sequence responds to existing vegetation, canopy, soils and hydrologic conditions. The goal of patch design is to use the least effort to achieve the best outcomes. A treatment typically includes assessment, a target conditions, and then specifications for disturbance, propagation and aftercare.


  • Soils
  • Canopy
  • Hydrology
  • Competing vegetation

Target Conditions

  • Canopy Structure and Composition
  • Species
  • Managed succession


  • Mowing
  • Mulch
  • Tillage
  • Spot, Linear or Patch


  • Seed
  • Cutting
  • Division
  • Bare root
  • Potted


  • Irrigation
  • Mowing (& Mulch)

5. Implementation and Evaluation

  • Timing and sequence
  • Equipment and machinery
  • Sourcing plant stock
  • Storage and staging

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