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NEMO Nevada (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials)

What benefits do wider buffers provide?

Picture of man fishing in Carson River.

Fishing in the Carson River

  • Tough, flood-resistant riparian vegetation helps to stabilize banks. Water-loving plants provide strong soil-binding roots that hold riverbanks in place.
  • Fish habitat increases when riparian vegetation provides shade, creates deeper pools with clean gravels next to stable banks, and forms a diversity of other habitats with meanders or fallen wood.
  • Nutrients and sediment from upstream and upslope are removed as water flows through riparian vegetation and slows down.
  • Banks stabilized with riparian vegetation have less bank erosion and reduced sediment inputs. Also, frequent flooding through riparian vegetation causes sediment to drop out of the water and onto the floodplain. This improves water quality while building floodplain as meanders move.
  • Flood damage control results when we keep incompatible development, such as homes and businesses, out of flood-prone areas. Flood-compatible land uses such as agriculture or parks allow water to spread out and soak into the soil, decreasing flood flows downstream. Flood damage control also results from storage of flood waters in the riparian area and floodplain.
  • Wildlife thrives in riparian habitats due to its unique diversity and structure. Wider areas encourage species needing more space or less-disturbed habitats. Corridors that permit wildlife movement are also important elements of wildlife habitat.
Graph showing riparian buffer and benefits acheieved at different widths.  0-50 feet: bank stabilization; up to 75 feet:fisheries habitat; up to 125 feet: nutrient removal; up to 150 feet: sediment control; up to 200 feet: flood control; up to 300 feet: wildlife habitat.

As buffer widths increase, more benefits are achieved.

Next: Do we need to manage buffers?