Natural infrastructure presents opportunity to scale river ecosystem restoration

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River ecosystems are disproportionately important to biodiversity and in provision of services but have been substantially degraded globally by the concentration of agriculture, transportation and development in valley bottoms. At the same time, the impact of river ecosystem restoration efforts to date have been hampered by an over-emphasis on stabilization and in-channel remedies. River restoration is not meeting the scale and scope of impacts and challenges. Recent advancements in restoration practice and river management offer new approaches to improve restoration effectiveness and also serve as natural infrastructure to address increasing risks and impacts of climate change. As traditional gray infrastructure ages and fails under increasing climate stress, natural infrastructure offers an opportunity to rebuild with improved understanding of the value of nature. River valley bottoms, including source-water wetlands and riverscape floodplains, are the critical natural infrastructure areas deserving investments in protection and restoration to meet global water security and climate adaptation challenges. The marriage of practical, cost-effective, long-term climate adaptation solutions (i.e., natural infrastructure) with emerging restoration strategies (i.e., “freedom space”) can create opportunity to address the triple challenge of addressing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, improving climate resilience, and providing water security for human populations.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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