How can riparian habitat serve as an effective mechanism for helping to protect water supplies?
Jonathan Higgins • The Nature Conservancy
What is a riparian zone?Riparian Restoration involves restoring the processes that support provide habitat that supports native species (plants and animals) and important ecosystem services and river processes in riparian areas (those adjacent to flowing water).
What are the key features of healthy riparian areas?The key features of healthy riparian areas are native trees with deep, soil-binding roots. Grass and shrubs are also important ground covers and bio-filters. Healthy native vegetation also play an important role in supplying nutrients, providing shade, and contributing aquatic and terrestrial habitat. In many cases the riparian area includes the active floodplain. Well-designed riparian buffers can act as an agricultural best management practice, reducing sediment and nutrient pollution from nearby agricultural fields.
A few examples of common riparian restoration projects may include a combination of:
- Restoring processes that support the formation and sustainability of natural stream channels and biota adapted to dynamic streamside habitats. These processes include facilitating a natural sediment regime, hydrology (restoring key flow components), and water quality;
- Restoring patterns that support native biota. Channel and floodplain form typical of a stream or river typical of a particular setting;
- Planting of native vegetation (grasses/forbs, shrubs, and trees);
- Invasive weed clearing and control;
- Channel restoration: widening (e.g., decreasing bank angle through re-sloping), narrowing through mechanical means or revegetation of banks, restoring an incised channel and/or preventing incision, reconstructing desired planform (sinuous meandering, straight or braided);
- Livestock exclusion or fencing.Off-stream or controlled livestock watering;