Skip Navigation

Riparian Forest Buffer

Riparian Forest Buffer








An area next to a body of water that is vegetated with plant species that protect and enhance the stream, pond, etc.

How it works

A riparian forest buffer is an area directly adjacent to a stream, river or lake that can include trees, shrubs, grass, and/or grasslike plants and forbs. The riparian area can be either native vegetation or managed improved vegetated species with harvestable crops. Buffers are designed or managed for multiple benefits.

How it helps

  • Creates shade to lower water temperature
  • Provides leaves, twigs, stems, and logs for aquatic organisms, fish cover, etc.
  • Provides habitat for multiple wildlife species
  • Protects soil from scour erosion
  • Reduces downstream flooding
  • Protects water quality by filtering shallow groundwater flow

Planning ahead

  • Is the current riparian area functioning correctly?
  • Is the soil suitable for the selected vegetation?
  • Is soil erosion occurring up-gradient of the buffer?
  • Are pesticides entering the riparian zone?
  • Is animal waste entering the riparian zone?
  • What wildlife species use the riparian zone?

Technical notes

  • Remove unwanted vegetation the fall before planting.
  • Plant trees and shrubs during the dormant season.
  • Keep competing vegetation away from newly planted species for at least two years.
  • Use only those pesticides approved for use near water.
  • Protect trees and shrubs from wildlife damage, if necessary.
  • Create a clean weed-free site when planting grass or forb seeds.
  • Mow frequently any weeds that compete with seeded grass and forbs.


  • Control competing vegetation.
  • Exclude livestock grazing.
  • Inspect for wildlife and rodent damage.
  • Replant, if necessary, to achieve desired conditions.
  • Inspect after high water flows.