River Delta Adaptive Management Strategy/6. Core Monitoring Strategy

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Core Monitoring Strategy

Given the scale of public investment in delta restoration, we require a record of restoration project work that allows for some verification of the scale of restoration effects. To complete extensive monitoring of every project, site, and system over time would require an unprecedented expansion of public spending authority, and may not be cost/effective given the cost of extensive monitoring compared to the likelihood of generating actionable new knowledge. In addition, a monitoring change over time approach to learning may fail to resolve issues that require comparison among multiple sites, evaluation of a site in the context of the delta system, or comparison among systems.

Therefore ESRP does not implement extensive monitoring at every project site. Instead we apply research methods specifically designed to achieve our learning objectives. However, some level of rapid assessment at every site is useful for verifying the general effects of restoration, and identifying issues that deserve more aggressive investigation. Thus we propose a minimum core monitoring effort be undertaken at every delta restoration site that alters hydrodynamics.

To achieve this goal we aim to optimize sample accuracy, while reducing the frequency and intensity of sampling to only that necessary for the desired analyses. We focus on low-cost and well stratified sampling approaches, and limit parameter estimates to low variability measures that are critical drivers of delta dynamics. In addition, we encourage systematic qualitative work to build a strong basis for speculation to define future work.

Some projects may poorly fit the methods we recommend. Those projects should be identified early in project selection. Development of an evaluation approach can then be integrated into design tasks, using the River Delta Adaptive Management Strategy as a framework. Special types of projects, with known and unique risks are discussed in the section on high risk projects and recommended for additional study design.

This core monitoring strategy will be integrated into ESRP's project selection and contracting process. Early in project review, projects are flagged as appropriate for core monitoring, and evaluated for risks. Each flagged project has core monitoring tasks integrated into their contract, with projects entering the ESRP program late in their development, responsible for rapidly completing any previously required tasks. Out-year data collection and analysis is negotiated during the construction phase, and may be implemented through the ESRP portfolio process, which allows funded ESRP actions to receive supplemental funding for approved tasks through a streamlined application process following competitive selection of a selected alternative. Tasks are either completed by the project proponent, or are sub-contracted to a third party.

Our core monitoring strategy focuses observations on two critical dynamics described in our Delta Ecosystem Model: 1) Hydrodynamics and channels, and 2) Sediment dynamics and vegetation.

Component Method Design Analysis

Hydrodynamics and Channel Formation

Benchmark

Elevation monument established on site and located relative to local tidal parameters and NAVD88

Location is stable, convenient and easy to relocate - verify elevation using RTK prior to survey season

Use benchmark as basis for elevation surveys to place analysis within the local tidal frame.

Project Extent and Elevation Zonation Delineate project extent using aerial photography - use LIDAR or other topographic data to define site zones relative to local tidal parameters existing models] where feasible Extent polygon is shared with ESRP and used as a basis for accounting - elevation zones are used to stratify sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. and vegetation sampling - DEMs are integrated into updated regional models
Channel feature baseline and change Channel features are delineated using aerial imagery and DEMs - longitudinal survey and outlet cross section are made of excavated and relict channels - Tidal basin or island area is estimated Baseline established following construction - repeated after five flood seasons - identify issues for systematic subjective observation Compare geometric parameters to baseline and available delta tidal channel reference models.
Water level verification One or more water level data logger with control for atmospheric pressure one year following construction with reference site - select points to represent potential sources of constriction and range of tidal connectivity within site - tie to benchmark - before construction data critical for sites with more subtle change in tidal inundation compare site levels to control levels before and after construction, corrected for atmospheric pressure and compared to tidal datum.
Sediment Dynamics and Vegetation
Sediment accretion Sediment stakes and collection plates/marker horizons randomly located along Mean Tide (or appropriate) contour with exclusion criteria, and stratification by distance from distributary Established 1 year after reconnection - re-sampled after 5 flood seasons - include references that represent the range of deposition in the system - include redundancy in anticipation of lost stations - include specific locations and predictions in systematic qualitative observations Calculate annual accretion rate compared to reference - consider local and regional discharge record to support increased understanding of relative sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. budget among systems
Vegetation recruitment Delineate observable vegetation zones on aerial photos and intersect with high marsh/low marsh elevation zones and any planting zones - relative dominance and vegetation height in plots stratified by composite zones to achieve random stratified representative sample single sample in fifth full growing season after restoration to identify species frequency and cover by zone - add baseline and first full growing season survey where complete vegetation turnover not anticipated - include specific locations and predictions in systematic qualitative monitoring Compare mean cover and composition among zones, where baseline established observe both shift in zone area and zone composition, compare to model predictions and site predictions based on reference vegetation or regional models established during design.
Out planting documentation Delineate planting zone polygon in GIS - document stock, quantity, and species Record immediately during and following installation season, with updates at each subsequent installation season - include specific locations and predictions in systematic qualitative monitoring Planting extent use as zone in vegetation recruitment analysis.
Systematic Qualitative Monitoring Narrative and photographic observation of site development based on specific speculation about dynamics and driving factors sites selected subjectively to reflect predictions and questions specified during design Minimum of Winter/Summer biannual photos and narrative organized by observation theme and location, with cumulative observations over time made publicly available

Hydrodynamics and Channel Formation

Recovery of historical functions is most likely with restoration of hydrology and channels. Channel development provides a primary metric for indicating recovery of function for fish. Elevation mapping relative to tidal range, and establishing that restored tidal range is a critical tool for evaluation of sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. dynamics and vegetation.

Benchmarks (baseline)

Each site will establish an appropriately sited benchmark monument surveyed to a known elevation using NAVD88. The nearest appropriate tidal recording station should be selected for the purpose of relating absolute site topography (NAVD88) to tidal datum.

Project Extent and Elevation Zonation

Site topography is necessary for delineation of elevation zones. Elevation zones can be used to predict fish access and vegetation development, and are expected to affect accretion rate. Pre-construction LIDAR data are available to describe most Puget Sound Deltas. LIDAR data can be converted to elevation zones for the purpose of stratifying sampling and describing the area of delta plain under restoration. Were LIDAR topography is not available, either the project site should be enrolled in a collaborative over-flight, or point topographic surveys should be converted into a NAVD88 raster layer, which can be in turn coded to reflect elevation zones consistent with the selected local tidal datum. Initial work is proposed by the Delta metrics project.

The extent of the project area should be defined by a GIS polygon to include all areas where earthwork has changed elevation (old dike footprints) as well as all areas where hydrology has been modified through reconnection to riverine or tidal flows, including the extent of the 100 year floodplain or extreme high tide. This project footprint is shared by ESRP with the Delta metrics project to provide metrics that describe the impact of the project compared to historical and current tidal flow.

Channel feature baseline and change

Using a high resolution aerial photography in a GIS environment delineate all channel features within the project extent. Delineation consists of polygons defined by the channel edge, and a longitudinal survey of the channel thalweg. A cross section survey should be established at the predicted channel outlet, and perhaps at additional point within the channel system where specific uncertainties are identified. Survey elevations should be tied to a site benchmark and thereby be available in either NAVD88 or relative to the tidal frame.

This initial work should be completed immediately following construction, and before the winter flood season. In subsequent years, a systematic qualitative monitoring strategy should be developed, using photopoints and narrative notes and published on the effort page.

4 full water years following construction, the channel delineation survey should be replicated. Record any observations of barriers to erosion (root mass, gravel, or compacted soils). Either island area (where possible) or an estimated tidal basin area, is delineated using best professional judgment.

The predicted range of equilibrium channel geometry, using the delta tidal channel reference model, is generated from the estimated tidal basin area, and is compared to measured channel geometry, to describe progress toward formation of natural equilibrium channels, terms of percent recovery. Channels with very different configuration may have similar metrics, and so parity in metrics may or may not indicate parity in all functions.

Qualitative notes may be as significant, or more significant in defining issues that are integrated into our synthesis of the development of tidal channels following restoration. Results should be published on the project effort page, and evidence integrated into the appropriate topic pages.

Water Level Verification

Water depth, salinity, and temperature within the site should be monitored for one year using a continuous data logger before reconnection of hydrology, and one year following reconnection of hydrology. Monitoring should occur at a relatively low elevation to, at minimum, capture all fluctuation of water levels above mean tide, and the logger should be surveyed relative to the site benchmark to position all water depth readings relative to NAVD88 elevation and the tidal frame. Depending on the complexity and size of the site, additional sample locations could be established to describe the range of salinity regime, muting of full tidal range due to interaction with freshwater flows, or tidal constriction.

Tidal observations for the same one year time period should be retrieved from a local tidal datum (or best available prediction of local tidal datum) and used for comparison. Local water data are compared to the tidal record, and are used to generate a local correction factor that is then used to establish three elevation zones relative to the tidal frame, and are used to support monitoring of vegetation and sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. accretion. Observations here may modify our assumptions about delta hydrodynamics.

Sediment Dynamics and Vegetation

The objective of the core monitoring of sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. dynamics and vegetation is to estimate the rate at which sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. is entering a site (in volume/year at the selected elevation), and to determine whether vegetation establishment is generally occurring in a manner consistent with seed availability, elevation, and salinity regime. While vegetation development rate may vary, we are primarily interested in whether the range of species anticipated at the site is establishing within those elevation zones where rapid plant recruitment is expected (between MHWmean high water and XHW). Aerial photography is used to describe patterns of early recruitment, and random sampling within elevation and observed vegetation zones are combined with narrative observations linked to plot photos to characterize early establishment.

The evaluation of change in elevation through use of sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. elevation tables (SETs) which allow for comparison of accretion, shallow, and deep subsidence to elevation change requires careful development of a study design and sampling strategy and is beyond core monitoring, but may be pursued at some sites where evaluation of subsidence and accretion is urgent. Sediment accretion estimates focus on use of sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. plates and marker horizons in association with sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. stakes.

Sediment Accretion

Site micro-topography is known to adjust both up and down during initial site development, with both erosion and deposition occurring across the site. Local topography may affect this initial adjustment of sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. elevation, with localized depressions collecting sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment.. Sediment deposition rate is anticipated to both be a function of elevation (the proportion of time that a site is exposed to sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. laden water), proximity to river inputs, and the effects of vegetation or other obstructions which slows velocity (for discussion see Delta sediment dynamics and vegetation). Wave energy may re-suspend sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. or concentrate sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. deposition. The purpose of this measure is to generally characterize the degree to which sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. is entering the site.

Our basic sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. accretion observation should attempt to avoid confounding factors to generate a relatively precise measure of sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. inputs. We recommend sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. measurements all be taken along a mean tide (MT) contour (as appropriate), with stations distributed across a 'distance from river flow' gradient should one exist. Sites should avoid areas of woody debris to minimize effects of surface roughness. Sites should avoid local topographic lows that impound water between tidal cycles, and any areas of channel formation. To assist sample site selection, we recommend that site selection occur 1 year after restoration of tidal flow, so that tidal water drainage patterns can be used to assist with station selection.

We recommend a sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. stake method for evaluating sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. accretion at a new site. A straight edge is placed level between two permanent monuments (t-posts), and mean elevation is measured using a suspended weight and tape measure. Monuments can be destroyed by flotsam or vandalism, and so posts should be low visibility, and additional sites should be established to account for a loss of 10-20% of monuments. Uniquely identifying and documenting the position of each post of a pair allows for one post to be replaced should it be damaged, by referencing the position of its partner.

To complement the sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. stake approach, sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. plates and placement of a marker layer, relative to the stakes (and protected from trampling) can be used to verify deposition rate.

Not using a SET decreases the accuracy of measurement, and so a period of time should be allowed to pass before repeated measurements to reduce the error relative to accretion rate. We recommend four full water years between establishment and measurement to produce a robust calculation of mean accretion rate, a period generally corresponding to proposed vegetation and channel measurements.

We currently lack the data necessary to develop a robust rate estimate for a site, and are lacking the analysis to place the rate estimate into a regional context. Some assessments of mean sea level rise, corrected for local isostatic rebound rates are available. Little information about local subsidence are available. Our ability to evaluate sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. input will improve over time. The majority of new sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. deposition is anticipated to occur during large river flood events which may not occur every year. The record of river flow should be retrieved over the deposition period, and used to compare the sampling period to the period of record to determine if rates observed during the sampling period are likely to be typical.

These observations may result in speculation which leads to more robust studies to evaluate sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. dynamics and particular systems, where there are risks to restoration effectiveness resulting from low sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. accretion rates (see Delta sediment dynamics and vegetation).

Natural Vegetation Recruitment

Vegetation establishment is not continuous over a site. Initial seedling recruitment may be higher based on seasonal wrack deposition patterns which may include floating seed. The relative dominance of species in natural vegetation is strongly linked to elevation and salinity. The objective of core monitoring is to determine whether species anticipated to form the mature vegetation, given salinity and elevation, are establishing within the site.

Evaluation begins with a prediction of species anticipated to provide the greatest proportion of primary productionthe capture of sun energy by plants, and the base of all food chains. at the site. In salt marsh environments this is typically Distichlis and Salicornia. In Transition environments this may shift to Carex and Schoenoplectus, perhaps including Myrica gale in some systems. Freshwater systems may be dominated by Typhus, or at higher elevations, by shrublands dominated by Rosa, Lonicera, Salix, Malus, or Rubus with a potential canopy of Picea Populus, or Alnus. Prediction should be based on elevation zones and salinity identified during core hydrodynamics monitoring, and consideration of local vegetation patterns and composition.

The strong influence of elevation on vegetation requires stratification of sampling by elevation to develop robust estimates of cover, and discussion of the species composition results. We propose a random but stratified representative sample as the most useful tool for describing restoration site condition. One goal of any vegetation sampling strategy is to establish an easily repeated route, that allows for rapid sampling of a large representative sample within three elevation zones. The first zone is between Mean Tide and MHWmean high water--the lowest extent of vegetation. The second zone is between MHWmean high water and MHHWmean higher high water the elevations anticipated to be dominated by low marsh. The Second zone of interest is between MHHWmean higher high water and Extreme tide, where high marsh and perhaps woody vegetation are expected to establish. This requires delineation of these elevation zones based on the hydrodynamnic measures described above, and then definition of a set of random sample locations distributed among each of the sample zones (likely using a baseline and offset approach), imprecision in individual sample site location is acceptable as long as it is not biased, as the samples collectively produce a robust representative sample of cover and composition for the whole site. This requires a rapid method for describing sampling sites (likely using a simplified measure of relative abundance, and a single 'height of vegetation' measure, and a single sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. characterization).

The goal of this approach is not detect year to year change along a transect, but rather to concentrate quantitative sampling to establish a single strong snapshot of site condition stratified by elevation. Subjective qualitative methods are anticipated to provide observations of the many subtle dynamics in vegetation development, that are unlikely to be detected even by the coarse parameters developed by annual transect surveys.

A single sample may occur in the middle of the fourth full growing season after hydrologic reconnection, to characterize the wave of establishment anticipated following hydrologic reconnection. Prior to field work, best professional judgment and a high resolution aerial photograph from the previous summer are used to delineate zones of similar vegetation appearance. Where clear boundaries between vegetation zones cannot be observed, than elevation zones are used alone. Sampling locations are randomly identified to generate a representative sample of each vegetation zone that occupies more than 10% of the total area of the two elevation zones described above.

During sampling, photo points are established that best characterize the site. To the extent possible, simple directions are used (e.g. bearing 0 degrees North). The cover and composition of vegetation are estimated visually, and any observations of pattern, demographics, autecology, or synecology are recorded.

On many sites, the pre-restoration vegetation may have little bearing on the post restoration vegetation due to the radical change from altered hydrology and salinity. Where vegetation change is anticipated to be more subtle, and the degree of change has significant management implications, additional sampling events may occur prior to construction, and in the middle of the first full growing seasons after restoration of tidal flow, to describe a baseline condition and the immediate effects of altered hydrology.

We strongly encourage additional observations, using a systematic qualitative approach, incorporating images and narrative, and incorporating repeated observations beyond the quantitative sampling event. Development of a more involved strategy attempting to isolate other controlling factors or detect change in community composition over time is beyond the scope of this core monitoring.

Quantitative analysis produces a summary of site vegetation in terms of zone coverage, and zone composition four years after restoration, which can be discussed in comparison to predictions of vegetation development based on local seed source, site elevation, salinity, and regional research and modeling.

Out Planting Survival

For each planting footprint, the quantity, species, stock type (e.g. 1 gal potted or 2-1 bare-root) should be documented. A new planting footprint should be developed for any area where composition or density or planting is substantively different. Planting footprint should be documented as a shapefile or KMZ file. Post planting evaluation of survival is optional, and may follow any protocol that generates proportion of survival by species. Results of survival should be presented by species by planting zone, and discussed in terms of observed site conditions, and any spatial pattern of survival or speculation related to the details of planting or stock condition. Evaluation of out planting survival, where the study attempts to isolate factors affecting survival and growth are beyond the scope of core monitoring.

Dynamics Reserved for Learning Projects

The remaining critical delta dynamics are not currently addressed by core monitoring. We believe these topics require an intensity and duration of effort, and a precision of design, poorly suited to generalized methods and protocols. These topics will be addressed through development of learning projects.

Salmonid rearing services

Effective observation of salmonid use and realized function requires development of a detailed measurement and analysis strategy that is beyond the scope of core monitoring. Because robust understanding of fish benefits from restoration are so central to evaluating restoration effects, we recommend reserving all available fish sampling funds to support rigorous investigations that are developed to systematically target critical uncertainties, and allow for prediction of fish benefits from site and system structure.

Biodiversity and food web development

Generally where sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. accretion is present, and predicted vegetation has begun to establish, and there is not clear impediment to fish access, we assume that food webs will develop parity with reference sites over time with a similar elevation, salinity regime and level of connectivity. Given the high spatial and temporal variability in invertebrate communities, and the high mobility of vertebrate communities, we don’t propose these activities as part of our core monitoring strategy.

Flood and drainage services

Given the unique character of flood and drainage infrastructure, standard protocols are poorly suited to evaluating changes in flood or drainage services. Projects that are anticipated to affect drainage of adjacent agricultural lands (either beneficially or adversely) are considered a high risk project type, and are recommended for site specific before-after control-impact monitoring strategy to evaluate how restoration efforts affect groundwater and surface water levels over time.

Human social dynamics

A core strategy for evaluating project effects on human social dynamics has not been developed and is anticipated to exceed the capacity of a core project monitoring strategy. This reflects a generally weak engagement of social science, or for that matter public communication, in delta restoration work, with the vast majority of effort consumed by reacting to social conflicts during design and permitting.

High Risk Projects

Certain kinds of actions are anticipated to produce a risk of unintended effects or constrained benefits. These actions may deserve additional analysis. For examples, projects with depend on a tide gate for hydrologic reconnection may constrain fish passage in ways that have not been rigorously evaluated (see Lyons & Ramsey 2013). Ideally high risk projets are associated with a developed river delta adaptive management topic, and actions are enrolled in ongoing efforts to increase the predictability of restoration outcomes.

The following project types are recommended for additional consideration. Identification of potential risk should be part of project evaluation during the design phase. An analytical method would be developed during project design. Additional risk factors should be considered and proposed during project development, considering our adaptive management criteria

Tide Gate Risks

Where construction of setback levees are not feasible, the perpetual management of hydrology and fish passage using tide gates may be an attractive partial restoration solution. Tide gate effects on ecological restoration goals are highly variable depending on the setting, species, and characteristics of the control structure (see topic page (tide gate effects on salmonid passage and utilization). Given the capital and operating costs of these systems, and potential effects on restoration objectives, continued evaluation of tide gates on a project by project basis is necessary to justify their use as a restoration tool.

We anticipate that monitoring will involve development of a robust experimental design that develops an adequate reference site, differentiates among tide gate effects on different species, monitors the physical operation of the gate over time, particularly in association with sampling periods, and considers year to year variation in out-migration as a factor potentially affecting local abundance of target species.

Limited Breach Risks

Where hydrologic reconnection is considered the primary ecological effect, a project may complete only limited breaching of dikes and levees just sufficient to restore unmuted tidal hydrology. In some cases, levee retention may be driven by social interests in maintaining access for recreation or maintenance. Remnant dikes and levees may continue to affect routing of sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. and debris and biota by affecting river flood flow. The effect of remnant dikes and levees on ecosystem dynamics and services is poorly understood, and creates an anomaly within the delta landscape. Despite potential impacts of hydrodynamics, some have argued that relict levees provide platforms for the development of forest vegetation which increases ecosystem services through biotic inputs and shading.

Projects which must maintain anthropogenic structures in the delta plain that are anticipated to affect river flow should be considered as potential learning opportunities. The potential effects of these structures of system dynamics and services should be explicitly predicted, and a monitoring approach developed to test these predictions. Not all settings may allow for robust comparison among sites necessary to detect the effects of relict levees and dikes.

Downstream Scour Risks

Projects that modify the distribution of river flood flow, or augment river flood flow by increasing tidal prism, may increase the maximum discharge of delta ebb water within a constrained channel during river flood, increasing velocity, and the potential for scour erosion. While the velocities of delta hydraulics are typically low, delta sediments are highly erodible, and so where infrastructure might be threatened by a change in channel size downstream of a restoration project, the risks should be identified, possibly leading to simple and direct monitoring and management planning.

Agricultural Drainage Risks

Restoration of tidal flow may create mounding of ground water, increasing saturation of surface soil on adjacent agricultural lands. Modification of drainage structures and flow pathways to allow for restoration may similarly affect agricultural land drainage. Soil drainage, particularly in spring can strongly affect the ability to till and plant, and so can affect the viability of agricultural businesses. Even where project work is not a factor affecting agricultural operations, the perception of effect can impair future restoration efforts.

Longshore drift dynamics can cause movement of material at the outlet of tidal channels draining a restoration site and adjacent agricultural land. This shoaling my be triggered by modification of seasonal or ebb tide discharge, or may have no relation to restoration actions. These changes in the delta plain can affect the function of upstream drainage infrastructure. Again both actual culpability and perception are intertwined.

Project design is the point at which potential impacts on agriculture drainage should be considered, and integrated into the assessment, monitoring and management strategies. Without baseline observations of ground water behavior or current drainage pathways, post construction monitoring is insufficient to establish the character or cause of a perceived problem. Year to year ground water variation requires that monitoring of agricultural drainage consider yearly variation in rainfall as a factor affecting ground water dynamics.

Sediment Contamination Risks

Some sites may be subject to chronic or acute sedimentparticles of clay, silt, sand, gravel, or cobble, transported by water, are called sediment. contamination due to point or non-point sources of pollution. Common sources are from industrial activities, redistribution of historical industrial contamination, current stormwater discharge from urbanizing and agricultural sites likely containing oils, fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals and a range of poorly understood biologically active substances.

Establishing the impact from pollution requires establishment of a baseline site conditions. Future impacts can be compared to baseline conditions to establish that a pollution related injury may have occurred. Without a baseline, it is very difficult to establish the source or timing of a pollution injury.

A site with a high potential for pollution related degradation should consider two critical questions: 1) what are the likely sources and types of pollution, and 2) what management decision would be triggered through establishment of pollution impacts? If there are clear risks of pollution over time, and there are understood management decisions that may hinge on detecting those impacts, than a project pollution management plan should be developed and implemented as part of design work and stewardship planning.

Systematic Qualitative Observation

Our plan that quantitative monitoring will provide scientifically robust evidence that helps us make our next decision, may not work as well as we like. A large number of factors are at work in ecological systems. Ecological research often attempts to use a large and well designed sampling strategy to identify factors that commonly or strongly affect outcome. Repeated testing builds a very generalized understanding of a class of systems. We may still lack the ability to make the kind of situation-specific predictions enjoyed by engineers of less dynamic and open-ended systems (Cabin 2011; Meadows 2008)

While much work can be applied to increase the quantitative predictability of ecosystem, in the meantime, many restoration decisions will be made based on a mixture of measurements, evidence, theories, intuitions, and visions—a combination of resources called best professional judgment. The human senses and brain have an enormous capacity to detect important patterns, integrate prior knowledge or concepts, and intuit evolution over time.

Aided by best professional judgement we can document observations using a range of simple technologies, from measuring tapes, to photographs, to systematic descriptions of pattern, color, and quantity. Over time, these informal observation can be used to develop postulates about how ecosystems function, that can be the subject of future quantitative investigation. Where investigations are built on protracted and careful observation, we are more likely to make decisive and meaningful discoveries. Data collection, in the absence of protracted and careful observation are unlikely to end in useful or robust analyes.

At risk of being patronizing, or obtuse, we suggest the following principles to support increased use and sharing of qualitative observation.

  1. During development of designs, management strategies, and evaluation methods, identify specific locations and issues that could be subjected to careful observation.
  2. Consider recording those observations as an important part of restoration practice.
  3. Record observations using precise language and documentation that allows for a future third party to identify the location of the observation and compare current conditions to your observations.
  4. Establish repeated observations of critical locations that allow for comparison among seasons or years. Review your past observations within a place before each subsequent visit to improve your ability to detect and understand change.
  5. Make your observations available using this wiki so that others may learn from you and contribute their own observations.

Speculation can be discounted in professional practice, easily overwhelmed by decisive behavior and a piece of quantitative evidence held in the hand. It may take concerted effort to develop and engage our ability to cultivate clear and concise speculation, but I suspect it may actually be the most important missing ingredient to increasing learning in restoration practice. Natural history records have their own rigor (Herman 1993) and has shaped the very bedrock of the natural sciences (Darwin 1859). The absence or presence of strong and well documented natural history observation in the practice of restoration may be decisive in our developement.