Archive for the 'riparian zone' Category

Benefits of Healthy Riparian Zones

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
Brazos River

Brazos River. Image credit: Larry Hodge

This is Passport to Texas

A riparian zone is a transitional area between a stream or river and an upland ecosystem. Conservation ecologist, Ryan McGillicuddy says these strips of land, which can be from 25 to over 200 feet wide, perform vital ecological functions.

They provide excellent habitat for fish and wildlife both in stream and on the land. The leaf litter provides nutrient contributions. The fallen logs provide structural habitat in the stream for fish and wildlife. A lot of the nutrient and diet for some of our sport fish species and the food web within the channel comes from a land source. Structurally, riparian zones provide a number of functions. The plant roots act like rebar and hold the banks of the channel together to resist the force of erosion.

When rain events cause streams and rivers to overflow their banks, riparian zones are the first line of defense.

If you have an intact, healthy riparian zone, it will slow the forces of floodwaters. It will help capture sediment, filter nutrients, slow runoff from upland sources…

These healthy riparian zones also soak up water like a sponge, adding to stream flow during drier times.

Unfortunately, a lot of the land use practices over the last 150 years from really intense settlement have altered the natural state of some of these riparian zones.

Tomorrow: When riparian zones are weakened.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Riparian Zones: Life Along the Edges

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
South Llano River

South Llano River

This is Passport to Texas

The technical name for the land along river and stream banks is riparian zone.

A riparian zone is that special transition zone between the stream channel and the uplands.

Ryan McGillicuddy, a conservation ecologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says riparian zones are diverse.

It’s comprised of different composition of plant species, and it’s critical to the health of both the channel and the uplands. So, it’s a narrow band, but it’s really important in the health and function of a stream and for fish and wildlife habitat.

Depending on the size of the river or stream, a riparian zone can be from 25 to over 200 feet wide. Identifying where the riparian zone ends and the uplands begins isn’t as hard as you might imagine.

It’s basically that area on the slope, coming up away from the channel, until you see things that are more typical of upland vegetation. In the Hill Country, that would be when you start seeing things like cedar and ash juniper.

These strips of land are more than places to bring a picnic or fishing pole.

Riparian zones perform a number of ecological functions, as well as structural functions in protecting streams and keeping them—I guess—resisting forces like erosion.

And we’ll learn more about that tomorrow.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.