Riparian Buffers Background
A riparian buffer is a zone of vegetation located along the bank of a waterway that serves to protect the water from harmful runoff. The roots of plants and trees in the buffer stabilize the soil and control erosion. They also slow water flow, reducing the threat of downstream flooding after heavy precipitation. By slowing water flow, riparian buffers allow the soil to absorb more water, and thus more water enters the underground water system. This water is naturally filtered as it slowly passes through the soil to replenish the aquifers.
In addition to being a natural water filter, riparian buffers provide habitats for wildlife. Songbirds live in the trees, and waterfowl are attracted to the cover at the edge of the water. Amphibians, turtles, eagles, foxes, and many other creatures utilize the buffer closer to the shoreline. Shad, herring, alewife, perch, and striped bass utilize forested streams and rivers to spawn, preferring the shaded areas near the edge of the water. The buffer's vegetation is a food source for wildlife in and out of the water.