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Riparian Area Management Systems

Riparian Area Management Systems

The following conservation practices are commonly used to protect riparian areas from degradation.


Streambank and Shoreline Protection project









Streambank Protection at work



A filter strip is an area of vegetation established for the purpose of removing sediment, organic material, and other pollutants from runoff and wastewater.  Filter strips are generally located at the lower edge(s) of a field to remove pollutants from runoff before the material enters a body of water.  They also serve as buffers between water and the fields above the water so that pesticides and other chemicals are not applied directly adjacent or into the water body.  Filter strips reduce sedimentation of streams, lakes and other bodies of water.


A riparian forest buffer is an area of trees and/or shrubs located adjacent to and up-gradient to a body of water.  The vegetation extends outward from the water body for a specified distance necessary to provide a minimum level of protection and/or enhancement.  This practice applies to areas adjacent to permanent or intermittent streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands and areas associated with ground water recharge.  Purposes for the practice include:

  • To create shade to lower water temperatures to improve habitat for aquatic organisms,
  • To provide a source of detritus and large woody debris for aquatic and terrestrial organisms,
  • To create wildlife habitat and establish wildlife corridors,
  • To reduce excess amounts of sediment, organic material, nutrients and pesticides in surface runoff  and reduce excess nutrients and other chemicals in shallow ground water flow,
  • To provide protection against scour erosion within the floodplain,
  • To restore natural riparian plant communities,
  • To moderate winter temperatures to reduce freezing of aquatic over-wintering habitats,
  • To increase carbon storage.


A riparian herbaceous cover practice consists of grasses, glass-like plants, and forbs along watercourses or on the fringe of water bodies where the natural plant community is dominated by herbaceous vegetation.  These riparian areas provide habitat (food, shelter, and water) for aquatic and terrestrial organisms.  They intercept direct solar radiation, create shade, and increase the depth to width ratio to help maintain or restore suitable water temperatures for fish and other aquatic organisms while providing a milder microclimate for wildlife.  They improve and protect water quality by reducing the amount of sediment and other pollutants, such as pesticides, organic, and nutrients in surface runoff as well as nutrients and chemicals in shallow ground water flow.  These riparian areas provide food, in the form of plant detritus, for aquatic insects which are important food items for fish.  They help stabilize the channel bed and streambank, as well as serving as corridors to provide landscape linkages between existing habitats.  They provide room for watercourses to establish geomorphic stability.


Using vegetation or structural techniques to stabilize and protect banks of streams, lakes, or excavated channels against scour and erosion.  This practice applies to natural or excavated channels where the streambanks are susceptible to erosion from water, ice, debris, or to damage from livestock or vehicular traffic.  It also applies to controlling erosion on shorelines where the problem can be solved with relatively simple structural measures, or vegetation. 

Additional Practices Associated With Riparian Area Protection


Several practices which are typically associated with livestock or grazing systems also provide tremendous resource benefits to riparian areas.  These practices are often located outside of the riparian area, however, they are used to help protect the riparian system.  Find descriptions of the following conservation practices on the Grazing System Practices web page.


Livestock Trail & Walkway


Spring Development

Use Exclusion

Water Facility


For additional information related to these conservation practices, visit the Vermont NRCS Conservation Practice Information web page.



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