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Ecology & Function

What are the functions of riparian areas?

Although riparian areas provide similar functions for flowing (streams/rivers) and non-flowing (lakes/wetlands) systems, there are some differences:

Stream and Rivers Lakes and Wetlands
trap sediment trap and store sediments; prevent re-suspension of sediments
build and maintain banks build and maintain shorelines and banks
reduce flood damage reduce damage from high water levels and wave action
store water, especially flood water store water, especially flood and spring runoff water; act as a surface reservoir
extend perennial flows or levels by recharging underground aquifers extend seasonal or long-term levels by recharging underground aquifers
dissipate flow and ice energy dissipate wave and ice energy
high primary production, including forage and shelter values high primary production, including forage and shelter values

maintain or improve water quality
maintain or improve water quality
filter and buffer water, both from over-land flow (runoff) and water from within the channel filter and buffer water, both from over-land flow (runoff) and water from within the basin
maintain biodiversity¹ maintain biodiversity¹
  trap nutrients and sediments to balance nutrient cycling, in-filling and primary production

¹biodiversity
The variety of life in all its forms, levels and combinations.  Includes ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity (IUCN, UNEP and WWF, 1991).

Please refer to Caring for the Green Zone or Riparian Areas:  A User's Guide to Health to learn more about the functions of riparian areas:

Riparian Structure
Water Investments
Vegetation: The Roots of the Solution

8 Key Functions of Riparian Areas

Riparian Soils

 
 
 
 
   
 
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© Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society