Stream-bank Restoration: New York Native Grasses, Sedges and Forbs in Gravel

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Kristine A. Boys

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Background: A failing 1990’s flood control structure along Fall Creek, a protected waterway, designed to preserve the integrity of the intact flood plain forest, and unique 8-acre natural area, needed attention to prevent its collapse. This historic natural area managed by Cornell Botanic Gardens and used by elementary through graduate students to study native plants, offered an opportunity to demonstrate a novel stream-bank restoration. Objectives: The objectives were to stabilize the stream-bank and restore the site with drought tolerant herbaceous native plants capable of establishing and thriving in gravel: grasses, sedges, and forbs; to be a model for future habitat restoration; to be a teaching tool for classes; and to appeal aesthetically to students and visitors. Methods: Working with Cornell University’s Environmental Engineering team, a gabion basket structure was modified, anchored, and fitted with additional drainage. The Natural Areas staff botanist, staff gardener and Finger lakes Native Plant Society steering committee member developed a restoration plan and a design for seeding and planting the site using locally sourced gravel and regionally sourced seeds. Results: The stabilization of the new structure, with a rapidly thriving, drought tolerant native plant community representing both common and rare species of the New York flora, is aesthetically appealing to landscape architects, students, and visitors. Conclusion: Within three years, an established community of plants has developed; site stabilization has been fully achieved; seedling recruitment is annually occurring; and aesthetic criteria have been met, demonstrating the positive impact of a created, functioning landscape.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program