Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2011 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Woody species composition of restored and unrestored urban streams segments in the Baltimore area.
Beauchamp, Vanessa
Co-Authors: Christopher M. Swan and Katalin Szlavecz

Urban streams in the eastern United States often suffer from erosion and entrenchment due to increased stream flow caused by impervious surfaces in the watershed. A common objective of urban stream restoration is to stabilize stream banks and reconfigure channel geometry and gradient to better match geomorphology to the new hydrology. This intensive re-engineering often necessitates complete active revegetation. Riparian areas are important habitat for wildlife and play a crucial role as dispersal corridors, particularly when imbedded in an urban matrix. We were interested in how well the vegetation composition of restored reaches approximates the spectrum of naturally occurring riparian communities in the region. This study compares tree and sapling community composition between paired restored and unrestored reaches located in Baltimore, MD. The majority of trees in the restoration sites were planted, whereas most saplings had recruited post-restoration. Tree communities were similar between reference and restored reaches in nearly all aspects measured, while sapling richness and density were higher at restored sites, reflecting the younger age of these sites. Differences in the dominant species between restored and unrestored sites were also driven by early successional state of the restored reaches. Salix spp. and Acer rubrum were more common in restored reaches, while Acer negundo was more common in reference reaches. These results indicate actively revegetated urban streams in the Baltimore region closely match the composition of references reaches and ecosystem processes are functioning at level that allows for the continued recruitment of desirable riparian vegetation.