Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
 
Black Branch of the Nulhegan River, VT  - Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Black Branch of the Nulhegan River, VT. Credit: USFWS

Riparian buffers are one of the most essential elements in the protection of stream habitat.

A riparian buffer consists of the strips of grass, trees, shrubs, and rocks that line the bank of streams and rivers. The plants in the buffer strip trap the sediment and absorb the nutrients in runoff before they enter the stream, protecting the health of the river.

Fish and other aquatic organisms in streams suffer when oil, pesticide and/or other contaminats runoff or leach from fields, roads, and urban development.

Mainstem Nulhegan River in VT - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mainstem Nulhegan River in VT. Credit: USFWS

Water flowing over parking lots and roads, can wash pollutants directly into the rivers and streams. This can cause stream temperatures to increase, flows to become less stable, and fish exposure to toxic substances. Agricultural runoff is also an issue if the buffer strip is not large enough to absorb excess nutrients and chemicals before they reach the water. Crops planted too close to streams to maximize yield from a field can carry liabilities since pesticides sprayed on them may flow directly into the river without a buffer. The size of a buffer is important. Minimum width is 50’ from the top of the bank, but if erosion is present or the adjacent land is part of the floodplain, a larger buffer is needed. For fast moving water and steep slopes, large riparian buffers are necessary because the greater width allows the removal of more pollutants. Generally, the wider the buffer the healthier the aquatic life.

Benefits of Riparian Buffers

  • Filter out sediment from surface runoff

  • Trap pollutants before they enter the stream

  • Slow velocity of runoff

  • Reduce erosion

  • Home to plant and animal species

  • Provide shade and maintain cool, even water temperature, which provides more oxygen for the fish

  • Reduce economic loss in floods

Mainstem Connecticut River in rural Sunderland, MA - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mainstem Connecticut River in rural Sunderland, MA. Credit: USFWS

What can YOU do?

  • Limit encroachment by setting back roads, parking lots, and houses

  • Restrict livestock access to stream banks

  • Implement watering ponds for livestock

  • Obtain community support for zoning along the rivers’ edge

  • Eliminate cutting of trees within 90 feet of a river

  • Make sure septic tanks are up to code to protect the quality of underground aquifers and streams

  • Minimize the use of pesticides and herbicides in your garden and yard

  • Refer to This link opens in a new windowIntroduction to Riparian Buffers for information on buffer width

    You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader software to open the document in the above link. If you do not have this software, you may obtain it free of charge by following this link.

Ompompannosic River in VT - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ompompannosic River in VT. Credit: USFWS

 

 

 

 
Last updated: September 13, 2010
Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Fisheries Resources Home
Northeast Region Home


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page | Department of the Interior  | USA.gov  | About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  | Accessibility  | Privacy  | Notices  | Disclaimer  | FOIA