2021 - Assessing the Effectiveness of Floodplain Reconnection, a Growing Practice in River Restoration

Grant Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Anna Martini
Brian Yellen
Research Description: 
Floodplain reconnection has been proposed as a means to allow urbanized streams to access functioning floodplains leading to the potential sequestering of sediment, nutrients, and industrial pollutants, effectively improving downstream water quality. To restore these functions, efforts have focused on lowering aggraded floodplains by excavating sediments, largely resulting from 1800s era land clearance, give the stream the ability to access a floodplain. Most studies to date on the effectiveness of floodplain reconstruction are from the Piedmont region in mid-to southeastern USA. Critically, studies evaluating the efficacy of floodplain reconnection in the post glacial Northeastern US, where landscape erosion rates are an order of magnitude lower than in the Piedmont, are lacking. As a result, we have little ability to quantify a particular project's impact and thus prioritize future efforts to mitigate harm with the limited funding available. Herein we propose to rigorously monitor water, sediment and bacteria for a funded floodplain restoration project in Amherst, MA. We will evaluate baseline water quality parameters before, during and after the project. This study will provide a unique opportunity to engage students and the community in monitoring this local watershed.