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  1. Many restoration projects' success is not evaluated, despite available conventional ecological assessment methods. There is a need for more flexible, affordable, and efficient methods for evaluation, particularly those that take advantage of new remote sensing and geospatial technologies. This study explores the use of illustrative small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) products, made using a simple structure‐from‐motion photogrammetry workflow, coupled with a visual assessment protocol as a remote evaluation and ecological condition archive approach. Three streams were assessed in the field (“surface assessments”) using the Stream Visual Assessment Protocol Version 2 (SVAP2) and later illustrated in sUAS products. A survey ofmore »10 stream experts was conducted to 1) assess the general utility of the sUAS products (high resolution video, orthomosaics, and 3D models), and 2) test whether the experts could interpret the products and apply the 16 SVAP2 elements remotely. The channel condition, bank condition, riparian area quantity, and canopy cover elements were deemed appropriate for remote assessment, while the riparian area quality, water appearance, fish habitat complexity, and aquatic invertebrate complexity elements were deemed appropriate for remote assessment but with some potential limitations due to the quality of the products and varying site conditions. In general, the survey participants agreed that the illustrative products would be useful in stream ecological assessment and restoration evaluation. Although not a replacement for more quantitative surface assessments when required, this remote visual approach is suitable when more general monitoring is satisfactory.« less
  2. While hydroelectric dams play a significant role in meeting the increasing energy demand worldwide, they pose a significant risk to riverine biodiversity and food security for millions of people that mainly depend upon floodplain fisheries. Dam structures could affect fish populations both directly and indirectly through loss of accessible spawning and rearing habitat, degradation of habitat quality (e.g., changes in temperature and discharge), and/or turbine injuries. However, our understandings of the impacts of dam life span and the initial fishery conditions on restoration time and hence the dynamic hydropower (energy)-fish (food) nexus remain limited. In this study, we explored themore »temporal energy-food tradeoffs associated with a hydroelectric dam located in the Penobscot River basin of the United States. We investigated the influence of dam life span, upstream passage rate, and downstream habitat area on the energy-food tradeoffs using a system dynamics model. Our results show that around 90% of fish biomass loss happen within 5 years of dam construction. Thereafter, fish decline slowly stabilizes and approaches the lowest value at around the 20th year after dam construction. Fish restoration period is highly sensitive even to a short period of blockage. The biomass of alewife spawners need 18 years to recover with only 1-year of blockage to the upstream critical habitats. Hydropower generation and loss of fish biomass present a two-segment linear relationship under changes in dam life span. When the dam life span is less than 5 years, generating 1 GWh energy cause around 0.04 million kg loss of fish biomass; otherwise, the loss of fish biomass is 0.02 million kg. The loss of fish biomass could be significantly decreased with minimal energy loss through increasing upstream passage rate and/or the size of downstream habitat area.« less
  3. The need to train sustainability scientists and engineers to address the complex problems of our world has never been more apparent. We organized an interdisciplinary team of instructors from universities in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island who designed, taught, and assessed a multi-university course to develop the core competencies necessary for advancing sustainability solutions. Lessons from the course translate across sustainability contexts, but our specific focus was on the issues and trade-offs associated with dams. Dams provide numerous water, energy, and cultural services to society while exacting an ecological toll that disrupts the flow of water,more »fish, and sediment in rivers. Like many natural resource management challenges, effective dam decisions require collaboration among diverse stakeholders and disciplines. We linked key sustainability principles and practices related to interdisciplinarity, stakeholder engagement, and problem-solving to student learning outcomes that are generalizable beyond our dam-specific context. Students and instructors co-created class activities to build capacity for interdisciplinary collaboration and encourage student leadership and creativity. Assessment results show that students responded positively to activities related to stakeholder engagement and interdisciplinary collaboration, particularly when practicing nested discussion and intrapersonal reflection. These activities helped broaden students’ perspectives on sustainability problems and built greater capacity for constructive communication and student leadership.« less
  4. Aging infrastructure and growing interests in river restoration have led to a substantial rise in dam removals in the United States. However, the decision to remove a dam involves many complex trade-offs. The benefits of dam removal for hazard reduction and ecological restoration are potentially offset by the loss of hydroelectricity production, water supply, and other important services. We use a multiobjective approach to examine a wide array of trade-offs and synergies involved with strategic dam removal at three spatial scales in New England. We find that increasing the scale of decision-making improves the efficiency of trade-offs among ecosystem services,more »river safety, and economic costs resulting from dam removal, but this may lead to heterogeneous and less equitable local-scale outcomes. Our model may help facilitate multilateral funding, policy, and stakeholder agreements by analyzing the trade-offs of coordinated dam decisions, including net benefit alternatives to dam removal, at scales that satisfy these agreements.

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