MRAE Capstone WATS 5340 and 5350

Condition & Impairment Assessment


Synopsis of Topic

There are many ways to define restoration and the related management actions we take to improve things. Regardless of the definition you subscribe to, implicit in taking such restoration actions is the idea that current conditions are worse than either they were previously, or worse than they could be. Condition can be described with simple qualitative categories (e.g. poor, moderate, good intact), descriptive categories (e.g. functioning properly, functioning at risk, impaired function; see ‘watershed condition’ inf figure below), or with some sort of continuous score (e.g. 0 to 100% departure from historic). Thus, most restoration actions are focused on improving current conditions towards something better. We will discuss developing appropriate targets for condition and analogues when we get into recovery potential in week 3.

WatershedCondition Map from USFS’s National Inventory of 6th Level (HUC12) Watershed Condition (from Potyondy et al. (2011)).

However, it is critically important to be clear what we mean by condition. What geography is considered? Is it watershed condition (e.g. Potyondy et al. (2011); i.e. a polygon region), reach condition (e.g. Fryirs (2015) - geomorphic condition; and Brierley & Fryirs (2005)), or some other geography? Similarly, what type of condition are we talking about? Is this the condition of a particular population of species of concern (e.g. fish~ McHugh et al 2017; Wheaton et al. 2017) or that species habitat condition (e.g. beaver habitat - Macfarlane et al 2015)? Is this some integrated measure of ecosystem condition or multiple species that are indicative of such condition (e.g. biotic integrity censu Hawkins et al. 2000)? Are we concerned with riparian conditions (e.g. Macfarlane et al. 2016) or wetland conditions or floodplain condition? There are many lenses by which we can consider condition, and its important to be clear what specific aspect of condition we are considering. Moreover, different types of condition assessment can focus on specific impairments that might help give clues about what restoration actions might need to focus on.

Why we’re covering it

Although it is possible to just jump into restoration actions without a clear evaluation of condition or articulation of specifically what impairments are a problem, it is a far better to use condition assessment to more clearly define the problem. Depending on the methods of condition assessment used, the underlying scores and intermediate outputs of such a process may more helpfully identify what specific impairments need attention.

Learning Outcomes

Of the course learning outcomes, we are primarily focused this week on:

  1. Identify and document specific watershed or ecosystem impairments in relationship to pre-defined management objectives.

Secondarily, we will build towards:

  1. Build a working understanding of the typical process through which restoration projects are conceived, proposed, planned, permitted and conceptually designed.


Workshop Slides & Handouts


Background & Definitions:


Datasets for Richards Hollow


Tools we Used

In class we used both BRAT & RCAT as examples to conceptualize the idea of recovery potential.

Relevant or Cited Literature

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