How do buffers protect stream health?
  • Buffers dissipate stream energy - streamside vegetation reduces the power of the stream by slowing water down through friction. Doubling the speed of a stream’s flow results in the erosion of four times as much soil.
  • The vegetation acts to filter pollutants from surface runoff. For example, buffers can remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus (two harmful pollutants) from artificial fertilizers, which in large quantities can cause harmful algae blooms that deplete oxygen levels in waterways.
  • The plants, trees, and root systems filter and trap sediment, keeping it out of the waterway where it can negatively impact aquatic habitat, while building and maintaining the stream banks.
  • Buffers improve water infiltration. If vegetation is removed, water flows downstream at a much higher velocity, decreasing the amount that soaks into the riparian area and streambed. Water that soaks into these areas recharges groundwater supplies, which in turn enhances stream flow levels throughout the year and in drier seasons.
  • Buffers provide vital wildlife habitat and food sources for aquatic organisms as well as shade to keep water temperatures cool.
  • Buffers can reduce flood damage. When small streams are in their natural state, they absorb significant amounts of rainwater and runoff before flooding. However, when a landscape is altered, the runoff can exceed the absorption capacity of the stream.

Show All Answers

1. Why does Meadow Creek need restoration?
2. Why are sedimentation and erosion problems?
3. What are riparian buffers?
4. How do buffers protect stream health?