The role of stream restoration in enhancing ecosystem services

Verdonschot, P.F.M.; Verdonschot, R.C.M.


Striving for an integrated semi-natural stream-floodplain system as restoration target would optimally serve biodiversity and the provisioning of ecosystem services. This pursuit is currently limited by multiple pressures and constraints that come with, amongst others, a high human population density and intensive land-use. To be able to weigh the ecological and societal needs in lowland-stream watersheds, we analysed the developments in lowland-stream restoration in relation to the actual and potential state of ecosystems services these systems provide. To reach an ecological-societal balance in stream restoration, we pose five steps: (i) Choose a clear and realistic restoration target, (ii) Map and quantify environmental stressors at local to watershed scale, (iii) Map and quantify biological indicators at local to regional scale, (iv) List potential restoration measures to remove or mitigate stressors, and (v) Build scenarios, composed of combinations of measures fitting the societal context of the watershed. The most promising scenarios make use of watershed processes and involve establishing a transverse landscape zonation, from the streams’ riparian zone to the uplands. Such landscape transition poses a challenge for policy makers and implies a strong societal change. Therefore, a framework is provided with building blocks that help to find a suitable balance in practice.