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Stream buffers also known as riparian buffers are important for good water quality. Stream buffer zones help to prevent sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and other pollutants from reaching a stream. Stream buffers are most effective at improving water quality when they include a native grasses and deep-rooted trees and shrubs along the stream. Overhanging riparian vegetation keeps streams cool, which is important for our native aquatic species. In addition to providing food and cover, they are an important travel way for a variety of wildlife.
Stream vegetation slows floodwaters, thereby helping to maintain stable stream banks and protect downstream property. By slowing down floodwaters and rainwater runoff, the buffer vegetation allows water to soak into the ground to recharge groundwater. Slowing floodwaters allows the riparian zone to function as a site of sediment deposition, trapping sediment that would otherwise degrade our streams by making the water turbid, smothering aquatic life, and acting as a transport for e.coli and other pathogens.
Degraded stream buffers reduce water quality, reduce wildlife and fish populations and can cause serious property damage through bank erosion. Removal of stream vegetation results in increased water temperatures and decreased dissolved oxygen, both of which are essential to a healthy stream. Loss of stream vegetation causes stream bank erosion. Eroding banks contribute to sedimentation and lead to a wide, shallow stream with little habitat value. Restoring a healthy stream buffer is key to restoring natural stream functions and aquatic habitats. Benefits include channel stabilization, improved water quality, improved wildlife and fish populations and improved aesthetics. Successful riparian management practices protect and/or establish native vegetation along streams, which helps prevent bank erosion, traps sediment and filters other pollutants. View the flyer!
North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation District Offices