Since European arrival in North America, old-growth riparian areas have been significantly reduced. Forest practices, agricultural activities, mining, residential, urban and industrial development have each had an impact on the health and production of riparian areas and in-stream fish habitat. Historical logging practices, for instance, has simplified complex habitats, altered riparian vegetation and disrupted the natural processes that sustain aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Growing public concern over the degradation and loss of old-growth riparian and in-stream fish habitat prompted legislative protection in British Columbia in the 1990s and increased efforts to restore degraded habitats. Habitat restoration is at the foundation of many land management strategies and endangered species recovery initiatives.
Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Restoration techniques modify riparian areas with intent of improving the aquatic and terrestrial habitat conditions. Restoration is not intended to return a system to a pre-altered state or fixed condition but to help restore the structure, function, and ecological processes of a system.
Ecological integrity is the foundation of restoration science. Ecological integrity refers to the health of system. It has been defined as the capacity of an ecological system to support and sustain a community of organisms that has species composition, abundance, diversity, and functional organization. The concept of ecological integrity guides management and planning as it is the over-arching goal of ecological restoration.