Riparian buffers are the natural vegetation from the edge of the stream bank out through the riparian zone.
The vegetative zone serves as a buffer to pollutants entering a stream from runoff, controls erosion, and
provides habitat and nutrient input into the stream. A relatively undisturbed riparian zone supports a
robust stream system; narrow riparian zones occur when roads, parking lots, fields, lawns, bare soil, rocks,
or buildings are near the stream bank. Residential developments, urban centers, golf courses, and rangeland
are the common causes of anthropogenic degradation of the riparian zone.
Riparian buffers are the most valuable protection a stream system has against outside influences. In most
cases healthy riparian directly reflects upon the condition of the stream unless the source of the insult is
a specific pollutant. Enhancement of the riparian buffer by re-planting native grasses, forbs, shrubs and
trees is the first step in the recovery of the stream back to a more natural condition. Some of the many
benefits of a healthy riparian buffer are listed below. Can you think of more?
- Provides organic material as food for invertebrate, fish and wildlife
- Supplies large and small pieces of woody debris that provide habitat for fish, invertebrates and
- Alters how sunlight reaches the stream and is an important temperature moderator
- Stabilizes stream banks and reduces erosion
- Filters sediment and materials from overland runoff and roots of many plants traps and holds the
- Absorbs nutrients from overland and sub-surface flows
- Reduces the impacts of flooding through temporary storage, interception and slow releases from heavy