Development of an Integrated Scientific and Technological Framework for Stream Naturalization

EPA Grant Number: R827148
Title: Development of an Integrated Scientific and Technological Framework for Stream Naturalization
Investigators: Rhoads, Bruce L. , Garcia, Marcelo , Herricks, Edwin E. , Wilson, David
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001
Project Amount: $881,913
RFA: Water and Watersheds (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Water and Watersheds


Many communities in the Midwest, through consultation with scientific and technical experts, are seeking to establish sustainable, morphologically and hydraulically varied, yet dynamically stable fluvial systems that are capable of supporting healthy, biologically diverse aquatic ecosystems - an integrated social and scientific enterprise referred to as stream naturalization. The general goal of this project is to advance and integrate fundamental and applied research in fluvial geomorphology, aquatic ecology, hydraulic engineering, and social theory to establish a sound scientific and technological framework for stream naturalization.


The research will develop a quantitative predictive understanding of the fluvial and habitat dynamics of human-modified streams, which will be integrated with fundamental insights into human aspects of community dynamics that are of critical importance in human-dominated watersheds. The scientific-technological component of the project will emphasize the development and integration of decision-support modeling and analysis tools for evaluating the performance, over appropriate temporal and spatial scales, of possible stream-channel designs developed for community-based stream-naturalization projects. Research on social theory will conduct place-based evaluations of how communities formulate an environmental vision and then, through decision-making, translate this vision into specific stream-naturalization strategies. Integration of the two components will occur in the context of community-based decision-making as the decision-support system is employed to help local stakeholders in human-dominated watersheds near Chicago, IL translate their environmental visions into completed naturalization projects. Analysis of naturalization projects in these watersheds will establish a framework for determining the extent to which local decision-making is grounded in strong science and data.

The research design combines social analysis both of community-based environmental visions and of decision-making about stream naturalization, with a scientific/technical analysis aimed at generating a predictive understanding of, and technological basis for, stream naturalization. The social methodology includes historical analysis of the emergence of an environmental vision within each community, and case-study investigations of the current nature of this vision and of the role of scientific information in sustaining this vision. Scientific/ technical research will develop and integrate engineering-based modeling of stream dynamics with ecological modeling of physical habitat and fish population dynamics. It will also refine an existing model of planform dynamics for multi-scale channel stability assessment, calibrate and test the modeling components using ecological and geomorphological data, and develop advanced visualization modules for presenting the results of scientific analysis to local stakeholders.

Expected Results:

Primary benefits of the project are that it will: 1) contribute to basic theory on social aspects of community-based environmental decision-making and the role of scientific information in this process, 2) generate practical recommendations for ensuring that scientific information is considered meaningfully in community-based decision-making about water and watersheds, 3) contribute to basic theory on the fluvial dynamics of human-modified streams at multiple scales and the relation of these dynamics to stream ecosystem properties, and 4) generate a theoretically informed set of design tools for naturalizing streams in human-dominated watersheds.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 43 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 4 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Illinois streams, suburban watersheds, Joliet arensal, Chicago river., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Hydrology, Water & Watershed, State, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Ecology and Ecosystems, Environmental Engineering, Watersheds, anthropogenic processes, alternative urbanization scenarios, biodiversity, stream naturalization, suburban watersheds, valuation of watersheds, human-dominated systems, stream ecosystems, decision making, conservation, stable fluvial systems, Illinois (IL), aquatic ecosystems, geomorphic, ecology assessment models, stakeholder feedback

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • Final Report