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In-Stream Habitat Alteration

In-Stream Habitat Alteration refers to lost in-stream habitat due to human modification of a waterway’s bed, banks, or flow. Modification of a stream’s bed or banks happens when streams are channelized, sent through culverts, dammed, dredged or filled. Out of stream infrastructure, such as curbs and gutters, storm-drains, and concrete ditches alter the rate of flow that enters a stream, quickly ushering water off impervious surfaces and sending it rushing into the stream channel. These modifications to streams result in an alteration of in-stream habitat.

Habitat alteration can disrupt native species reproductive cycles or simply make living conditions untenable for some aquatics, reducing taxonomic richness and diversity. It can also lead to the replacement of native species by exotic or invasive species or provide advantages to generalist species over specialist species.


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  • Adopt

    Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.

    Learn more about adopting a stream

  • Remove unused dams.

    If you have an antiquated or unneeded dam on your property, contact the Cumberland River Compact to discuss the feasibility of removing it. Walk the stream and inventory the location of any dams or obstructions, and let the Compact know so we can add these to our database or potential removal projects.

    Resources include:

    • Dam Inventory, Removal and Stream Restoration – Cumberland River Compact
    • How Dams Damage Rivers and How Dams are Removed – American Rivers
  • Reduce paved, impervious surfaces
  • Allow for natural growth near waterways

    If you live or work next to a waterway, leave a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on its banks. Allow natural and native plant growth in this buffer area or plant native trees, bushes, and groundcover. This vegetation can filter pollutants before they reach your waterway and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Native plants and grasses require less watering and fertilizer and also provide important habitat for native species of wildlife.

    Resources include:

    • Free trees for Tennesseans during TEC’s annual statewide 100K Tree Day – TN Environmental Council
    • Purchase Native Wildflower/Grass Alternatives to Mowed Grass – Roundstone Native Seed and/or Seedland
    • Tennessee Aquatic Stream Clean Up and Riparian Tree Grant (Scroll to bottom of linked page for more info) – TN Wildlife Resources Agency
    • General Guidelines for Volunteer Based Riparian Buffer Plantings – TN Environmental Council
    • Improving Stream Channels With Live Staking – UT Extension
    • Tennessee Urban Riparian Buffer Handbook – TN Dept. of Agriculture
    • Landscaping with Native Plants in West, Middle, and East TN – TN Wildlife Resources Agency
    • Native Plants for TN – UT Extension
    • Forest Stewardship Program and Landowner Services – KY Division of Forestry
    • Plant Availability Guide – KY Department of Agriculture
    • State Nurseries and Tree Seedlings – KY Division of Forestry
  • Plant a rain garden

    Rain gardens can filter and infiltrate stormwater that flows across your yard.

    Resources include:

    • Rain Gardens – A Resource Guide – Cumberland River Compact and Metro Nashville
    • TN Native Rain Garden Plants – UT Extension
    • Rain Gardens for Tennessee – UT Extension
    • Rain Gardens Educator’s Toolkit, Rain Gardens for Tennessee Site Summary, and Rain
    • Garden Facts and Tips – UT Extension
    • Rain Garden How-to Brochure – Harpeth River Watershed Association
    • Rain Garden Guide for Middle Tennesseans by Patty Ghertner
    • Start-to-Finish Rain Garden Workbook – Harpeth River Watershed Association
    • Rain Garden Workshop Guide – TN Environmental Council
    • Landscaping with Native Plants in West, Middle, and East TN – TN Wildlife Resources Agency
    • Native Plants for TN – UT Extension
    • Plant Availability Guide – KY Department of Agriculture
  • Spread the word.

    Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the problem? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.