Benefits of Riparian Areas

A​ riparian area is an area located next to a waterway or water body, such as a stream or lake, and has unique soil and plants, and is strongly influenced by the presence of water. Riparian areas are important transition areas that connect water to the land and provide many benefits.

Why These Areas Matter to Us

A healthy riparian area is diverse, supporting a wide array of native plants and animals and providing many benefits:

  • filtering pollutants such as nutrients and sediments, helping to keep in-stream water cleaner.

  • holding streambanks in place, helping to reduce erosion and reduce localized flooding due to buildup of in-stream sediment, all of which help protect property.

  • shading streams, which helps keep stream water cool. Cooler water holds more dissolved oxygen, which is critical for aquatic life.

  • slowing and absorbing flood waters.

  • providing food and habitat for wildlife whether they live on land, in the water, or in the sky.

  • allowing for wildlife movement within natural corridors.

Impacts to Riparian Areas and Streams

Development from expanding urban and rural areas that do not consider this resource causes a severe loss of riparian areas. In urban areas, hard surfaces such as roads and driveways also harm riparian areas. The increased amount of water funneled into streams during a rain storm from these surfaces leads to quickly changing stream heights and water speeds that adversely affect in-stream habitat and can change the stream channel.

Polluted runoff flushed from hard surfaces into streams during a rain event can be particularly harmful.  Runoff carries pollutants including pesticides, fertilizer, trash, and sediment that not only impact water quality, but can also harm aquatic life. Furthermore, fertilizer runoff increases nutrient levels causing algae blooms which can be detrimental to aquatic life. Trash not only pollutes water and is an eye sore, but it has the potential to cause flooding and endangers wildlife. 

What can you do to help?

  • Preserve and maintain current riparian areas on your property. 

  • Plant bare slopes with native vegetation to create a riparian buffer. 

  • Remove invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry and English ivy and replace them with native Oregon vegetation such as Snowberry and Douglas spirea. 

  • Reduce or eliminate fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides from your yard and garden. Check out alternatives.

  • Reduce the amount of impervious surface on your property, consider switching to pervious pavers, or removing impervious surfaces where possible. 

  • Create a rain garden on your property to help filter out rooftop runoff pollution. Download a DIY guide to creating a rain garden.

Salem Revised Code Chapter 808 provides protections for trees and native vegetation in riparian areas.

Contact us

Clean StreamsNatural Resources Outreach Public Works Department
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