A range of options exists when considering the modification the Paul Quinn stream. The possible actions are listed in order of increasing intensity.
- No Action
The stream would be left as it is with no modification. This option will not improve the overall water quality, flow rate, or remediate it from its polluted status. This option is the least costly, and will cause the stream to perpetuate its natural incising as well as flush its pollutants into the Trinity River Watershed.
- Action: Stream Clean Up
The objective of this strategy is to rehabilitate the stream. Rehabilitation is the elimination of contaminants and pollution from a place where they are not wanted. Physical trash is the main focus of this strategy. Cleaning the tributary of things like car seats, old chairs and furniture, wrappers, and other waste will relieve this habitat of the many anthropogenic hindrances that currently degrade it. This strategy includes the organizing of a “Clean Up Day”, as well as the installation of litter traps (e.g. Bandalong Litter Trap™; see Fig. 1). A clean up could inspire local residents and PQC students to see the value of the stream in a new light. Two litter traps would be installed, one behind the Mr. C’s Food Mart and one near or at the point of confluence with the tributary just past PQC’s property boundary. The second litter trap would pick up any waste that finds itself into the PQC reach of the stream. Scouting for openings above the banks of the stream would also be important. These openings could be filled to stop urban storm water runoff. A major outcome is improved water quality and improved species habitat.
III. Action: Restore the Stream to its Historic Continuity & Trajectory
Restoration involves the incorporation of human assistance in the recovery of an eroded or degraded ecosystem so as to allow for the return of a biotic and abiotic structure with ecosystem functions that resemble the site’s historical continuity and ecological trajectory. The major stressors of the stream include (see Fig. 2):
- lack of water flow
- impervious surfaces
- habitat destruction
The goals of this strategy are to restore banks and to widen the base of the stream. Strategies include the removal of concrete buttresses, reconnecting the stream with its natural floodplain (see Fig. 3), and establishing a native riparian area with native species along this reach. A prescribed path with sitting areas would also minimize soil compaction. Outcomes from this strategy include the return of native species diversity, increased ecological health, and a recreational area that serves community members. Reference sites like protected areas in the Great Trinity Forest offer local examples of environments similar to the riparian ecosystem that once existed at Paul Quinn College.
- Action: Create a Novel Ecosystem
A new trend in restoration ecology has been a call for creating “novel ecosystems”. Though there has been much debate over what can truly be considered “novel”, the varying definitions do concur in the fact that these sorts of ecosystems are:
- Functional systems made up of abiotic and biotic components,
- Humanly influenced,
- And novel in certain expressions of their biotic, abiotic, or functional expressions.
Compared to restored ecosystems, novel ecosystems are not constructed to retain any sense of historical continuity or historical trajectory. While they may maintain semblances of native species or former geophysical characteristics, the true value is in the fact that they are able to self-organize and self-sustain in this transformed state. Most importantly, this new state is anthropocentric to provide for human wants and specifically constructed to provide for human needs.
The PQC Stream could be constructed into a novel ecosystem by various methods, including:
- Introducing exotic plants like:
- Chinese Tallow and aquatic Hydrilla for carbon sequestration
- Giant Salvinia and Duckweed to naturally remediate streams remove pollutants from the stream and slow flow for increased depth
- Water Chestnut and Water Spinach could provide educational opportunities due to their aquatic habitat and edible nature
- Black Alder, which naturally attracts nitrogen fixing bacterium and can provide bank stabilization
- Beginning a small fish hatchery as a PQC Project to not only introduce fish species but to also provide fishing opportunities along the stream
- Create Amenities for Human Use
Creating amenities for human use along this reach of the PQC stream would increase its value to both Paul Quinn College and the surrounding Highland Hills neighborhood. As it sits now, the degraded stream has little aesthetic appeal. Amenities like lighted paths and picnic areas (with waste baskets) would increase the value of this stream to the local community. Designated trails would also minimize anthropogenic degradation by soil compaction because it suggests what areas of the stream should be used for recreational purposes. Signage can be incorporated to educate the public in ways to minimize their footprint and how this stream plays into the larger Trinity River Watershed.
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