Process-based ecological river restoration: Visualizing three-dimensional connectivity and dynamic vectors to recover lost linkages

Publication Date



channel, dams, degradation, diversion, ecosystems, fish passage, models, restoration, river restoration, sediment

Journal or Book Title

Ecology and Society


Human impacts to aquatic ecosystems often involve changes in hydrologic connectivity and flow regime. Drawing upon examples in the literature and from our experience, we developed conceptual models and used simple bivariate plots to visualize human impacts and restoration efforts in terms of connectivity and flow dynamics. Human-induced changes in longitudinal, lateral, and vertical connectivity are often accompanied by changes in flow dynamics, but in our experience restoration efforts to date have more often restored connectivity than flow dynamics. Restoration actions have included removing dams to restore fish passage, reconnecting flow through artificially cut-off side channels, setting back or breaching levees, and removing fine sediment deposits that block vertical exchange with the bed, thereby partially restoring hydrologic connectivity, i.e., longitudinal, lateral, or vertical. Restorations have less commonly affected flow dynamics, presumably because of the social and economic importance of water diversions or flood control. Thus, as illustrated in these bivariate plots, the trajectories of ecological restoration are rarely parallel with degradation trajectories because restoration is politically and economically easier along some axes more than others.





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