2014 Management Decisions Grounded in Research and Science
Many important programs implemented by the Fall River Conservancy in 2012 and 2013 are research orientated and are designed to help inform the discussion of what limiting factors are impacting the ecosystem and watershed of the Fall River. The Fall River Conservancy follows the model that best management decisions are grounded and informed by sound science.
Armed with watershed-wide research and partnerships with UC Davis Watershed Sciences Center, Chico State, California Trout, Fall River RCD, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA, among others, FRC future conservation and management decisions will be well-informed. Integral to ensuring that our management is constantly adapted and modeled off of the most recent research, we will continue to fund existing research projects on the Fall River and look to expand to new research projects to answer emerging questions.
Fall River Stream-bank and Riparian Restoration
Two of the most concerning watershed-wide limiting factors for healthy wild trout populations on the Fall River are stream-bank erosion and the lack of riparian vegetation. Riparian vegetation is locally sparse and banks are actively eroding due to decades of heavy grazing, burrowing by introduced muskrats, and foot traffic.
Habitat Restoration Objectives
- Improve and protect water quality and quantity
- Sustain and improve aquatic and riparian (river bank) habitat
- Restore and improve stream channel and river bed
- Improve health and abundance of wild trout populations and other priority species
Stream-bank Erosion Factors
Late 19th and 20th century disturbances related to Euro-American settlement and land use including heavy streamside cattle grazing likely simplified and reduced the density of the riparian plant community. The introduction of muskrats to the system has greatly impacted stream bank stability through heavy tunneling by the species. Active restoration in many sections of the Fall River is needed to protect eroding stream banks and restore native riparian vegetation degraded from past land use. In addition to providing bank stabilization, riparian plantings are designed to form dense root networks in the stream margin to discourage muskrat bank tunneling, trap sediment, and provide cover for native wildlife.
Along the Fall River, there are several invasive species present that could pose a threat to the long term health of native plant communities. In the riparian zone and the upland flood-plain, the invasive weeds reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), quackgrass (Elymus repens) and yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), among other, have all been found. By re-planting and re-establishing the native riparian vegetation along the Fall River the increased diversity will help to restore the health of the ecosystem.
Proposed 2014 Management Actions
In response to eroding stream-banks, lack of riparian vegetation and invasive species, the Fall River Conservancy is actively working towards a watershed-wide Fall River Riparian Management Plan. With recent stream-bank planting activities on the CalTrout Property off of Island Road, the FRC hopes to learn more about what native shrub and riparian species do best, and what rodent management practices (above and underground caging) are most effective.
Stream-bank revetment: Willow Spiling
Many stream-bank restoration projects call for heavy armoring or revetment that use heavy equipment, heavy armoring (rock, concrete) and even channel modification. Current research suggests that working with the ecosystem rather than against it tends to encourage natural and lasting results. One stream-bank restoration methodology utilized for centuries that is seeing a recent revitalization in the Restoration Ecology community, is the use of bio-engineering and willow revetment processes to help restore eroding stream-banks.
The process of willow spiling, creates a wall of willows that help to revet and armor the bank, and introduces native riparian vegetation bank to the ecosystem. By weaving willow “whips” or cuttings into the banks of the river while they are dormant in the spring, they put down root and grow together to form a natural wall of protection. As the willows grow together they form a dense network of roots and branches that cover the previously bare banks. The Fall River Conservancy is looking to complete a pilot willow spiling project in the Spring 2014 to determine and study the efficacy of this method for the Fall River system.
Check back with the Fall River Conservancy to find out more about new research and management proposals for 2014.