Friday, September 30, 2011

Riparian Buffer

From Biology Online Dictionary

(noun) A strip of vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses, etc) that grows along the edges of a bank or a waterway. Its major role is to provide shade and protect the nearby ecosystem from the impact of adjacent anthropogenic [caused by humans] land use.
Riparian buffers act as a cushion protecting the more sensitive ecosystem from the impact of anthropogenic land use. For instance, a riparian buffer near a roadway reduces traffic noise, air and water pollution, as well as provides a space for organisms to abound in the area.

These buffer zones serve as a natural filter. They improve water quality, reduce pollutants, reduce force and power of runoff, reduce erosion. If large enough, riparian buffers can play a role in flood control. They also discourage Canada Geese since the geese are not comfortable with taller vegetation and prefer open grass – a bonus for anyone who has tiptoed through goose droppings at their local park.
The size of the buffer depends on available land and the purpose of the buffer. At least 200’ of trees, shrubs and grasses is needed for flood control. Bank stabilization can be accomplished with about 50’.

With all these benefits it would seem that we should put riparian buffers along every stream in America. I’ll go into some of the difficulties next time.

A scholarly look at Riparian Buffers from Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, “Understanding the Science Behind RiparianForest Buffers: Effects on Water Quality”.

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