Perceptions of wood in rivers and challenges for stream restoration in the United States

1024 681 Stroud Water Research Center

Chin, A., M.D. Daniels, M. Urban, H. Piegay, K.J. Gregory, S.V. Gregory, E. Wohl, L. Laurencio, W. Bigler, K. Boyer, J. Grable, and M. LaFrenz. 2008. Environmental Management 41(6):893–903.

doi: 10.1007/s00267-008-9075-9


This article reports a study of the public perception of large wood in rivers and streams in the United States. Large wood is an element of freshwater aquatic ecosystems that has attracted much scientific interest in recent years because of its value in biological and geomorphological processes. At the heart of the issue is the nature of the relationship between scientific recognition of the ecological and geomorphological benefits of wood in rivers, management practices utilizing wood for river remediation progress, and public perceptions of in-channel wood. Surveys of students’ perceptions of riverscapes with and without large wood in the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, and Texas suggest that many individuals in the United States adhere to traditionally negative views of wood. Except for students in Oregon, most respondents considered photographs of riverscapes with wood to be less aesthetically pleasing and needing more improvement than rivers without wood. Analysis of reasons given for improvement needs suggest that Oregon students are concerned with improving channels without wood for fauna habitat, whereas respondents elsewhere focused on the need for cleaning wood-rich channels for flood risk management. These results underscore the importance of public education to increase awareness of the geomorphological and ecological significance of wood in stream systems. This awareness should foster more positive attitudes toward wood. An integrated program of research, education, and policy is advocated to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and public perception for effective management and restoration of river systems with wood.