Road removal is being used to mitigate the physical and ecological impacts of roads and to restore both public and private lands. Although many federal and state agencies and private landowners have created protocols for road removal and priorities for restoration, research has not kept pace with the rate of removal. Some research has been conducted on hydrologic and geomorphic restoration following road removal, but no studies have directly addressed restoring wildlife habitat. Road removal creates a short-term disturbance which may temporarily increase sediment loss. However, long-term monitoring and initial research have shown that road removal reduces chronic erosion and the risk of landslides. We review the hydrologic, geomorphic, and ecological benefits and impacts of three methods of road removal, identify knowledge gaps, and propose questions for future research, which is urgently needed to quantify how effectively road removal restores terrestrial, riparian, and aquatic habitat and other ecosystem processes.
- road removal