Riparian buffers – ribbons of vegetation alongside streams and lakes – offer a host of critical ecological functions. Depending on their health, they can act as safety nets, protecting sensitive aquatic ecosystems or they can devolve into conduits for pollution and actually degrade water quality, making life difficult for aquatic organisms. Proper management is key.
What does proper management look like? For one…where these buffers lack trees, streams tend to be narrower because of encroaching grasses and other herbaceous plants. Forested riparian buffers shade out an overabundance of these less valuable, and potentially detrimental, elements. In deforested buffers, invasive plants and animals increase from the loss of habitat diversity, while native fish and other aquatic organisms decrease because of the degraded habitat.
In forested riparian buffers, the diversity of all native wildlife – frogs, turtles, beavers, birds, mammals – is full supported for food, shelter, nesting, travel corridors and species richness. Songbirds especially are best protected when buffers are wide and diverse.
To learn more about what you can do in your own landscape to protect our riparian buffers, don’t miss an online workshop on February 19, 2022 on Invasive Species. This presentation of The Woodlands Township Environmental Services will feature Ashley Morgan-Olvera, Director of Outreach and Education with Texas Invasive Species Institute at Sam Houston State University. Registration is required to receive the Zoom link to the workshop.