Geomorphic Function and Restoration Potential of Spring Creeks in Southeastern Idaho: Analysis and Communication
Thursday, 18 December 2014
A large wetland and floodplain complex adjacent to the Snake River in southeastern Idaho, USA, encompasses numerous spring-fed creeks that originate on the floodplain and discharge at their confluence with the Snake River and American Falls Reservoir. Resource managers are implementing a program to restore these spring creeks for the recovery of Yellowstone cutthroat trout and ecosystem health. Our objectives were to evaluate the physical characteristics of these spring creeks, develop a conceptual model of their geomorphic function, compare the restoration potential of individual reaches, and communicate our findings to a broad audience of resource managers and regional stakeholders in order to foster restoration planning. A geomorphic assessment along 38 km of three spring creeks was completed by collecting data at several transects within distinct geomorphic reaches, and by collecting data continuously throughout all reaches. These data were summarized in a GIS database and used to quantify the overall geomorphic functioning of each reach. The geomorphic functional scores were scaled from 0% (non-functional) to 100% (fully functional). Among all three spring creeks, geomorphic function ranged from 29% to 63%, with bank conditions and riparian vegetation being the primary causes of overall channel degradation. Results from the geomorphic assessment fostered the development of a conceptual model for spring creek function, whereby degraded bank conditions represent the primary controlling factor of decreased geomorphic function and fish habitat quality. The reach-based geomorphic functional scoring provides an indicator of relative restoration potential for each reach, and is one of the factors used in determining site-specific priorities for protecting, enhancing, and restoring spring creeks on the Fort Hall Bottoms. The study results, conceptual model and restoration strategy were communicated to resource managers and regional stakeholders through a graphically-rich, large format atlas document. Presentation of hard copy and electronic versions of maps and infographics fostered a high level of engagement among those interested in restoring these spring creek systems.