Understanding what Riparian Habitat is

A riparian zone or area is the area between the land and a river or stream. Riparian is also one of the terrestrial biomes of the earth.

Plants that live along this area are called riparian vegetation and consist mainly of hydrophilic plants. These are plants that have adapted to life along this area.

Riparian habitats are important in many ways such as: ecology; environmental management; and soil management.

Riparian habitats have an affect on the ecosystems of the plants and the water. Some of these zones may have occurred naturally, but they can also be created by man. The manmade ones are generally developed to help with soil stabilization and restoration. They are a natural filter and protect the water life from sedimentation, pollution and erosion. Riparian habitats are a source of nutrition and homes for aquatic life; it also provides shade which keeps the waters’ temperature regulation.

Construction, agriculture and silviculture damage these zones but they can be restored with human help or just by letting nature vegetate the area again. Many riparian habitats are protected nationally by the Biodiversity Action Plan. When this is the case they are known as a “Plant or Vegetation Waste Buffer.”

Without these areas water quality would worsen de to surface runoff and ground water pollutants. These are also needed to regulate the level of nitrate contamination which would hurt ecosystems and humans.

A riparian area helps a stream to flow more gently. When this is joined with the plants and their root systems, there is less soil erosion and less chance of flood damage. The sediment becomes trapped and replenishes the soil and builds bands along the waterway.

These areas also increase biodiversity in the wildlife that make these areas their homes. Riparian areas also provide a corridor for wildlife to move along the river so they become less isolated. These areas are filled with food for animals, both wildlife and livestock.

They also create irrigation and help the aquatic food change through waste from plants and insects.

Riparian habitats can even increase property values by creating wanted views, recreation through pathways and bikeways. They also allow recreational uses such as fishing and swimming.

The buffering that is done in the riparian area help decrease climate changes and help in eliminated some of the runoff from housing developments.

Some of the plants that are native to these areas include aspens, maples, elders, ash, oak, willows, dogwoods, mugwort, snowberry, wild azaleas, and wild grapes. There are also many mammals, reptiles, birds and fish which make their homes in riparian habitats.