The riparian zone is the interface between the land and a stream or river. Riparian zones are EXTREMELY important landscapes acting as buffers or “biofilters” that protect aquatic environments from excessive sedimentation, polluted surface runoff, and erosion. Riparian buffers are a natural feature on many landscapes, but in urban areas, many riparian zones are engineered to protect against the same potential pollutants and erosion.
The image above illustrates the riparian zone. It parallels rivers and streams, usually well vegetated in natural systems. This vegetation helps stabilize slopes, filter runoff, and provides habitat for many animals. (photo courtesy Benton County, Oregon)
Riparian zones also dissipate stream energy through meandering and vegetation. This is a crucial function that helps limit erosion and flood plain damage during high intensity storms.
Heavily vegetated riparian buffer. (photo courtesy of NRCS)