In the past, streams were regarded as easy access to water and the consequences of eroding stream banks and degraded water quality were largely ignored. The area where land and fresh water meet is known as the riparian zone and includes
- Buffer zones
- Estuary margins
Most runoff must pass over or through the soil and vegetation of this zone before it reaches the adjacent water body. Riparian areas therefore have a crucial influence onwater quality – especially light and temperature, as well as flows. Riparian zones act as buffers which moderate the adverse effects of adjacent land uses on stream, lake or estuarine systems.
The buffer effect of riparian vegetation also works like a sponge by holding back the water and helping to protect the land from flood damage. Riparian zones also provide important habitat and stepping stones for wildlife both in the streams and on the land (e.g.: fish, birds and insects).
This is one of the core areas of focus for the Trees for Survival planting programme.