Linking hydrodynamics, conservation biology, and economics in choosing naturalization alternatives for the Illinois River, USA.
Sparks, R.; Ahn, C.; Demissie, M.; Isserman, A.; Johnston, D.; Lian, Y.; Nedovic-Budic, Z.; White, D.
Major investments have been made recently along the Illinois River in habitat rehabilitation and enhancement, stream bank stabilization, and conversion of former agricultural drainage and levee districts back to floodplains. Past efforts included intense sitespecific habitat management, such as manipulation of water levels in floodplain lakes to provide feeding and resting habitat for migratory waterfowl; and broad-based programs of financial incentives and technical assistance for landowners to control erosion and provide wildlife habitat. Innovative approaches to recover systemic river functions require decisions in the face of uncertainties, and hydraulic, ecological, and economic models are being developed to aid analysis of alternatives. Early biophysical modeling results indicate that location (for example, distance from dams) can be important to the likely success and cost of naturalization. Economic modeling indicates that impacts that are beneficial at the regional and state scale may be either negative or positive for local communities along the rivers. The analytical tools and multi-disciplinary approaches being developed are relevant to river rehabilitation or naturalization in other developed countries, and also to river conservation in developing countries that wish to sustain natural goods and services while undertaking commercial development.