Riparian Buffers

How many ponds or streams do you drive by each day?

How many of these bodies of water are bordered by neatly cut grass?

What is the diversity of wildlife around these bodies of water?

Riparian buffers: Riparian buffers are the areas adjacent to water sources which act to protect the water from nonpoint source pollution and provide bank stabilization and aquatic and wildlife habitat. This area differs from the uplands because of moisture levels, soil composition and the unique plant communities that exisit there.

As studies have indicated, riparian buffers can reduce the amount of sediment, nutrients, and other contaminants that enter surface waters. However, the studies also suggest that these effects vary from one riparian area to another. The degree to which the riparian buffer protects water quality is a function of the area's hydrology, soils, and vegetation.

By ignoring the importance of riparian buffers, we will reduce water quality values, reduce wildlife and fish populations, cause serious property damage (bank erosion) and loss of valuable agricultural lands. If the land surrounding our waterways is void of riparian vegetation, we will also see an increase in water temperatures and decrease in dissolved oxygen. The loss of shade exposes soils to drying out by wind and sunlight and reduces the water storage capacity of the riparian area, all of which will eventually cause streambank erosion. Eroding banks contribute to sedimentation and lead to a wide shallow stream with little habitat value.

Riparian buffers are most effective at improving water quality when they include a native grass or herbaceous filter strip along with deep rooted trees and shrubs along the stream. Riparian buffers should range from 25 to 100 feet wide on each side of the stream. Not only will this improve the water quality, but it will also increase the diversity of wildlife that can survive and thrive in this healthy habitat as opposed to the monoculture of turf grass surrounding so many ponds which only attract the Canadian geese!

bae.ncsu.edu, soil.ncsu.edu, ext.vt.edu

No comments: