Informing Watershed Connectivity Barrier Prioritization Decisions: A Synthesis
Water resources and transportation infrastructure such as dams and culverts provide countless socio-economic benefits; however, this infrastructure can also disconnect the movement of organisms, sediment, and water through river ecosystems. Trade-offs associated with these competing costs and benefits occur globally, with applications in barrier addition (e.g. dam and road construction), reengineering (e.g. culvert repair), and removal (e.g. dam removal and aging infrastructure). Barrier prioritization provides a unique opportunity to: (i) restore and reconnect potentially large habitat patches quickly and effectively and (ii) avoid impacts prior to occurrence in line with the mitigation hierarchy (i.e. avoid then minimize then mitigate). This paper synthesizes 46 watershed-scale barrier planning studies and presents a procedure to guide barrier prioritization associated with connectivity for aquatic organisms. We focus on practical issues informing prioritization studies such as available data sets, methods, techniques, and tools. We conclude with a discussion of emerging trends and issues in barrier prioritization and key opportunities for enhancing the body of knowledge.