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Riparian Forest Buffer

Learn about riparian forest buffers, including primary Field Office Technical Guide practices, primary purposes, key design elements, and tree/shrub species requirements.


A corridor of trees and/or shrubs planted adjacent to a river, stream, wetland or water body. The planting is of sufficient width and up-gradient and near the water body to insure adequate functioning for the desired purpose.

Some Primary FOTG Practices for this System

  • Riparian Forest Buffer (391)
  • Streambank and Shoreline Protection (580)
  • Access Control (472)
  • Fencing (382)
  • Prescribed Grazing (528)
  • Pasture and Hay Planting (512)

Primary Purposes

Protect near-stream soils from over-bank flows, trap harmful chemicals or sediment transported by surface and subsurface flows from adjacent land uses, or provide shade, detritus and large woody debris for the in-stream ecosystem.

Key Design Elements

Corridors are planted adjacent to and more-or-less parallel with the stream bank. They must be sufficiently wide to achieve primary purposes (usually 15 to 100 feet).

Tree/Shrub Species Requirements

  • Adapted to the soil and climate of the planting site.
  • Tolerant of extended periods of flooding (depending on the width of the planting and distance from the streambanks).
  • Moderate to aggressive root and crown spread to occupy the site quickly and provide adequate litter fall.
  • Resistance to pests and herbicides.