What role does stream restoration play in nutrient management?

Publication Year: 
Roderick W. Lammers and Brian P. Bledsoe
  • Summary of evidence from several studies, including streambank phosphorus data from across the U.S. and the researchers' own data
  • High variability means there is significant uncertainty in estimates of phosphorus loading rates from streambank erosion
  • Recommendations include prioritizing streambank stabilization to minimize phosphorus loading; riparian buffers may be a cost-effective and potentially effective strategy, but further research is needed to determine effectiveness

Nutrient pollution is a pervasive water quality problem. Stream restoration has been proposed as a novel approach to reduce loading and increase nutrient processing within streams. We summarize evidence from the literature on the efficacy of stream restoration for reducing nutrient loading and increasing nutrient removal in stream ecosystems. We also analyze published data on streambank phosphorus concentrations and riparian and stream denitrification rates to improve understanding of the potential benefits of stream restoration for phosphorus retention and nitrogen removal. Finally, we discuss the role of stream restoration in nutrient management and provide recommendations for practice and future research.