Trade-Offs and Synergies in Floodplain Management — A Historical-Ecological Approach

Gravuer K, J Ashander, M Kelso, N Ross, ME Mendoza 2012 IGERT Conference poster and video DOI 10.6084/m9.figshare.92044

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This video and poster introduces our project, “Trade-Offs and Synergies in Floodplain Management - A Historical-Ecological Approach”

Floodplains have long been favored sites for agriculture and settlement due to their fertility, flat topography, and proximity to rivers for easy transport of goods. To reduce flood risk attendant with flood plain settlement, extensive flood protection structures have been built, including elaborate networks of levees. These modifications have greatly reduced the ecological benefits that intact river-flood plain systems provide. There is increasing recognition that flood plain reconnection can restore some ecological benefits while further reducing flood risk. However, few of these promising multi-purpose projects have been implemented because we lack both practical methodologies for estimating benefits and an understanding of historical conditions likely to facilitate project success.

Here, we use both historical and biophysical approaches to examine the trade-offs and synergies among the benefits of a proposed flood plain reconnection project in California. We examine the social evolution of attitudes and views that shaped floodplain management decisions, and that led to moments of conflict and cooperation among actors with varied interests. We also use hydraulic and population modeling to predict the effect of flood plain reconnection on key ecological benefits, flood risk, and availability of land for agriculture. In combination, these approaches provide a novel view on how social and biological forces constrain and provide opportunities in floodplain management. This understanding could support effective implementation of multi-purpose projects.

Video also available at DOI 10.6084/m9.figshare.92041.