Riparian Zones: Life Along the Edges

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.

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