Portland NWAEP Lunch & Learn - Restoring the Lower Columbia River Ecosystem – Where do we go from here? (LCREP)
Presented by Catherine Corbett; Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership (LCREP)
This presentation will provide an overview of the status of habitat protection and restoration in the lower Columbia – where and how much land has been restored and protected. It will delve into programs that fund restoration in the lower Columbia River and estuary, and provide an overview of datasets and tools available for use in identifying, designing and evaluating protection and restoration actions in the lower Columbia River. Finally, with anticipated changes to precipitation patterns, temperature and sea level from climate change, we provide some initial recommendations for shifting how the region focuses restoration and protection efforts to begin mitigating for these changes.
The lower Columbia River is designated an “estuary of national significance”, or one of 28 National Estuary Programs (NEPs); the entire Columbia Basin is also one of ten “Large Aquatic Ecosystems”, similar to the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades and Puget Sound. All NEPs are required to work with regional stakeholders to identify issues facing the estuary and develop objectives and actions to address them. The region identified restoring biological integrity of the lower river ecosystem in 1999 as the ultimate goal of the NEP. More recently, the scientific community identified historic habitat diversity as one of four key ecological attributes that indicate whether we are meeting the goal of biological integrity (the other three are focal species, water quality, ecosystem processes). Historic habitat diversity was identified as an important attribute because native flora and fauna in the lower Columbia evolved under ecological conditions and habitats which persisted for thousands of years previous to changes resulting from large-scale development. Protection and restoration to protect and recover native habitat diversity should provide benefits to native species. As a result, it is a common approach for resource managers to use natural habitat diversity as an end point for restoration activities. In the lower Columbia, the science community is now developing voluntary quantifiable conservation targets, including priority geographic areas for protection and restoration.
LCREP completed a historic habitat change analysis comparing late 1800s land cover with 2009 land cover, and identified priority habitats for restoration and protection, based on what has been lost over that time period (the more severe the loss, the higher the priority). Those locations where the priority habitats still exist are priority for protection actions, whereas areas in low impact land use (called “recoverable” areas) are locations that can be restored to a suitable priority habitat if the respective landowners are willing. Maps of habitat changes, intact priority habitats and recoverable areas by River Reach are available on our website. For adding a multi-species focus to the region’s restoration actions, we have worked with partners to identify priority locations within the mainstem and tidal tributaries based on suitable conditions for juvenile “ocean-type” salmonids, and within the floodplain and terrestrial areas for Columbia White-tailed Deer. We are also hoping to work with partners to develop habitat suitability indices for avian and herptile species in the near future.
Catherine joined the Estuary Partnership in 2008. She leads the Science Team and manages the habitat restoration, data management and monitoring programs. She facilitates the Science Work Group and coordinates monitoring and restoration activities for the lower Columbia River. She served as the Senior Scientist for the Charlotte Harbor NEP for eight years where she facilitated the development of resource-based water quality targets and managed an interagency monitoring network. Prior to that Catherine was a wildlife biologist in a national park in Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains. She has published multiple manuscripts on seagrass in southwest Florida. Catherine has a B.S. in Zoology and Physical Geography Minor from Miami University, and a master’s degree from Clark University, Massachusetts.