Introduction

Ecological stream management is the process of altering a stream ecosystem to either preserve current conditions, or change one or more components of the stream ecosystem to obtain a desired outcome. The management of larger streams and rivers differs from that of smaller streams due to the physical and ecological properties associated with an increase in scale (Table 1). Humans have been altering streams since at least 6000 BC when Mesopotamians began agricultural irrigation. Since then, actions such as waste disposal, channel modification, flow alterations, removal of riparian vegetation, and species introductions have degraded many stream ecosystems worldwide to a point that has significantly affected stream ecosystem integrity. Structural and functional modifications include the alteration of energy flow and nutrient cycling efficiency (ecosystem function), the reduction of native species abundances and increased species introductions (ecosystem structure), and the degradation of water quality and quantity. Many streams are presently in need of intervention to maintain or restore their ecological integrity. Several

Table 1 Relative physical differences between large rivers and small streams that affect ecosystem structure and function

Large rivers

Small streams

Catchment area

High

Low

Average discharge

High

Low

Flood frequency

Low

High

Channel dimensions

High

Low

Water contact with bottom

Low

High

Slope

Low

High

Dilution potential

High

Low

Substrata heterogeneity

Low (fine)

High (coarse)

Temperature stability

High

Low

Light availability

Low (turbidity)

Low (canopy cover)/high (open channel)

approaches (such as conservation, preservation, adaptive management, and environmental engineering) have been used to accomplish this task. A newer approach to ecological stream management, ecological engineering, is a strategy that relies on both engineering and ecological theory to reach management goals.

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