Novel water sources restore plant and animal communities along an urban river

Heather Bateman, Juliet Stromberg, M. J. Banville, E. Makings, B. D. Scott, A. Suchy, D. Wolkis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Many projects have been undertaken to restore urban rivers in arid regions. At the same time, passive discharge of urban water sources has stimulated redevelopment of wetlands and riparian forests along stretches of dewatered rivers. In Phoenix, Arizona, for example, some segments of the dewatered Salt River have been actively restored by planting and irrigation, whereas others have revegetated in response to runoff from storm drains and effluent drains. Our research documents how biotic communities differ between these actively restored and 'accidentally' restored areas, and between wetter and drier urban reaches. We addressed these objectives with a multi-taxa, multi-season sampling approach along reaches of the Salt River. We quantified plants using cover estimates in quadrats, birds using fixed radius, point-count surveys, and herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) using visual-encounter surveys. One notable finding was that wetland plants had greater richness and cover at accidentally restored sites compared with actively restored, dry urban, and non-urban reference sites. Birds and herpetofauna, however, were most species-rich at actively restored and non-urban reference sites, and riparian birds were more abundant at sites with perennial flows compared with ephemeral reaches. From a landscape perspective, the range of management approaches along the river (including laissez-faire) is sustaining a diverse riparian and wetland mosaic. Urban water subsidies are sustaining freshwater forests and marshlands, the latter a regionally declining ecosystem. In urbanized rivers of arid regions, mapping and conserving perennial stream flows arising from stormwater and effluent discharge can be an important complement to active restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-811
Number of pages20
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Accidental restoration
  • Aridland streams
  • Birds
  • Desert
  • Riparian vegetation
  • Urban ecology
  • Wetlands
  • Wildlife

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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