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A Case Study in Urban Habitat Restoration at Willow Wind Community Learning Center

Riparian (or streamside) habitats are critical for water quality and wildlife. These habitats filter pollutants from runoff, stabilize soils, provide shade to cool water temperatures, and much more. They are also known for their biodiversity, supporting the most diverse bird communities of any habitat type in arid and semi-arid regions such as ours. This is even more pronounced in urban landscapes.

Some of our most at-risk bird species require riparian habitats for breeding. Many species also need healthy riparian habitats during the fall and winter seasons, when they complete important activities like refueling during migration, replacing worn feathers (molting), or building reserves for the next breeding season.

Most of our western riparian habitats have been lost or degraded due to human impacts. However, restoration efforts are helping to return these areas back to more functioning natural conditions. For nearly two decades Klamath Bird Observatory, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, and Ashland School District have partnered on a riparian restoration project at the Willow Wind Community Learning Center along Bear Creek in Ashland, Oregon.

Lomakatsi works to improve riparian habitat in our region by planting a wide diversity of native vegetation, removing invasive plants, and supporting the natural regeneration of native plant communities. As part of the project at Willow Wind, over 3,000 native trees and shrubs have been planted by Lomakatsi’s restoration workers, school groups, and community volunteers. This work has increased the size and health of riparian areas that cool and clean our water, while also providing important bird habitat.

KBO has studied birds as indicators of habitat quality at Willow Wind over the past 18 years to monitor the effectiveness of this streamside habitat restoration. The abundance of several bird species that use riparian habitats during the winter has increased over time in areas where Lomakatsi implemented restoration efforts. The abundance of these same species changed less in areas where no restoration occurred. Before restoration actions took place, the fall bird community at Willow Wind was substantially different than that of nearby mature riparian habitat. In the restored areas, the fall bird community is now becoming more similar to the bird communities in mature riparian habitat along Bear Creek, as a result of the regrowth of native plants. Restoration actions are improving riparian habitat quality in areas where it had previously been degraded.

CLICK HERE to see the full brochure describing results of this project, or to download a printable pdf version.

Interested in birdwatching in some of Ashland’s riparian habitats? Try Lithia Park, Ashland Ponds, Emigrant Lake, or North Mountain Park. CLICK HERE to learn about these and other biding hot spots in and around Ashland.