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Riparian Areas: Functions and Conditions. Authors: Gene Surber, MSU Extension Natural Resources Specialist Bob Ehrhart, Research Specialist, RWRP, Univ. of Montana. Riparian Areas. Wetlands Riparian areas Overflow areas Wet meadows Marshes Sloughs. Characteristics of Riparian Areas.

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Riparian Areas: Functions and Conditions

Authors:

Gene Surber, MSU Extension

Natural Resources Specialist

Bob Ehrhart, Research Specialist,

RWRP, Univ. of Montana

riparian areas
Riparian Areas
  • Wetlands
    • Riparian areas
    • Overflow areas
    • Wet meadows
    • Marshes
    • Sloughs
characteristics of riparian areas
Characteristics of Riparian Areas
  • “Green Zone” – link between aquatic and terrestrial
    • Water
    • Landform
    • Soil
    • Vegetation
riparian areas4
Riparian Areas
  • More dynamic than uplands
    • Flooding
    • Deposition of sediment
    • Accumulation of organic matter
    • Dewatering
    • Changes in location
functions of riparian areas
Functions of Riparian Areas
  • water storage
  • flow energy dissipation
  • water quality
  • sediment trapping
  • bank building and maintenance
  • primary biotic production
store and release water
Store and Release Water
  • Soil – acts like sponge
    • Reduces flooding
    • Extends time that surface water is available
dissipate energy of flowing water
Dissipate Energy of Flowing Water
  • Slows water
    • Vegetation
    • Woody debris
    • Large boulders
    • Cobbles
provide water quality
Provide Water Quality
  • Natural pollution control

Trap sediments (nutrients, pesticides, toxic metals, bacteria)

trap sediments
Trap sediments
  • Trap sediments – development of new streambanks and bars
protect soil and water
Protect soil and water
  • Shields soil and water from:
    • Wind
    • Sunlight
    • Rain drop impacts
enhances productivity
Enhances Productivity
  • Most productive parts of a landscape
provide wildlife habitat
Provide wildlife habitat
  • Water, food, cover and travel routes
    • Birds
    • Mammals
    • Insects
    • Fish
evaluating the health of riparian areas
Evaluating the Health of Riparian Areas
  • How well the riparian area carries out the functions
    • Physical
    • Biological
evaluating physical features
Evaluating Physical Features
  • Channel downcutting
  • Channel widening
  • Amount, location, & causes bare ground
  • Amount of fine materials
  • Amount of rock
downcutting
Downcutting
  • “Incisement” = erodes away the channel bottom
channel becoming wider shallower
Channel becoming wider & shallower
  • Banks break down
  • Stream becomes shallower
  • Stream temperatures rise
amount location causes of bare ground
Amount, location, & causes of bare ground
  • Bare ground – erosion
  • Noxious weeds
  • Compaction or bank shearing
amount of fine materials on channel bottom
Amount of fine materials on channel bottom
  • Silts, clays, decomposing organic material
  • Not enough water running
bank rock content
Bank Rock Content
  • Large rock versus
  • Sand, silt, small gravel
  • Management considerations
biological features
Biological Features
  • Types & amounts of plants
  • How well they fulfill functions
  • Amount of foraging & browsing
  • Mix of age classes of wood species
streambank protection
Streambank protection
  • Vegetation
    • Slows velocity
    • Stabilizes streambanks
    • Reduces erosion
amount types of vegetation
Amount & Types of Vegetation
  • Canopy cover of desired plants
  • Noxious weeds
presence of trees and shrubs
Presence of Trees and Shrubs
  • Woody plants (trees & shrubs)
    • Bank stabilizers
    • Food & cover
  • Determining appropriate presence
woody species age class
Woody species age class
  • Distribution of age class
    • All old trees
    • All young trees
degree of browsing
Degree of Browsing
  • Excessive use
    • (50% of current or previous year’s growth)
woody draws
Woody Draws
  • Perform functions of riparian areas
  • Habitat
    • Cover, food, water
  • Grazing management plan