life at the creek
Riparian Habitat and its Unique Benefits
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, riparian areas are lands that occur along watercourses and water bodies. Typical examples include flood plains and streambanks. They are distinctly different from surrounding lands because of unique soil and vegetation characteristics that are strongly influenced by the presence of water.
- Riparian areas help control nonpoint source pollution by holding and using nutrients and reducing sediment.
- Riparian areas are often important for their recreation and scenic values. However, because riparian areas are relatively small and occur in conjunction with watercourses, they are vulnerable to severe alteration and damages caused by people.
- Riparian areas supply food, cover, and water for a large diversity of animals and serve as migration routes and stopping points between habitats for a variety of wildlife.
- Trees and grasses in riparian areas stabilize streambanks and reduce floodwater velocity, resulting in reduced downstream flood peaks.
- Alluvial aquifers help maintain the base flow in many rivers in humid areas because of high water tables. In drier climates, streams lose water that can help build up the water table deep beneath the stream.