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Wetlands and Riparian Habitats

Riparian Habitat

Riparian Areas
(Klamath Resource Information System)

Riparian habitat occurs along watercourses and water bodies. It is distinctly different from the surrounding lands because of unique soil and vegetation characteristics that are strongly influenced by free or unbound water in the soil. Riparian ecosystems occupy the transitional area between the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Typical examples would include floodplains, streambanks, and lakeshores. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "riparian" is derived from the Latin word ripa, meaning river bank.

Researchers have discovered that wetlands provide many valuable ecological functions and social benefits, such as flood control and water quality improvement. Today state and federal programs are turning their efforts toward wetland protection, wetland restoration, and comprehensive watershed management. Similarly, citizen groups are springing up to spearhead local efforts to restore neighborhood streams and wetlands, and educate citizens about the services that wetlands provide the community.

Typically, riparian areas are more structurally diverse and more productive in plant and animal biomass than adjacent upland areas. Riparian areas supply food, cover, and water for a large diversity of animals, and serve as migration routes and connectors between habitats for a variety of wildlife.

Riparian areas are important in mitigating or controlling nonpoint source pollution. Riparian vegetation can be effective in removing excess nutrients and sediment from surface runoff and shallow ground water and in shading streams to optimize light and temperature conditions for aquatic plants and animals. Riparian vegetation, especially trees, is also effective in stabilizing streambanks and slowing flood flows, resulting in reduced downstream flood peaks.

Text excerpted from:

About Wetland Functions and Assessment. Just the Facts #5. Oregon Department of State Lands. 2004. Oregon Department of State Lands


Waterway and Wetland Resources. State Lands Board, Services, Statutes, Forms and Publications. Oregon Department of State Lands.

United States Department of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Compiled by John Ame, Science Writer (2007)