Riparian Buffer Systems


Thank you for visiting the Riparian Buffer Systems website and for your interest in this important natural resource. We would like to know a little about who visits this site.  Please take a moment to fill out a short, three question survey.  We ask only for your state, country, and how you describe yourself (teacher, farmer, retired engineer, etc.).  We hope this information will help us to better understand who we are reaching.  Click on Visitor Survey.

What does the Riparian Buffer Systems website offer?

This site provides resources such as fact sheets, seed and native plant suppliers, scientific articles, and links to private and government agencies. Also provided are the Maryland Manual, the video "Riparian Forest Buffers: The Link Between Land and Water," species that benefit, and the "Riparian Forest Buffers" slide presentation. 

The riparian buffer fact sheets can be found under the topmost bar: Resources>Environment & Energy>Chesapeake Bay>Riparian Buffer Systems or click here.

Be sure view the Riparian Forest Buffers Slide Presentation and the Riparian Forest Buffers: The Link Between Land and Water video.

Continue reading below for more information on riparian buffers.

What is a riparian buffer?

Forested stream

A riparian buffer is the area located adjacent to streams and wetlands which extends through the riparian area to the upland. It consists of trees, shrubs and other perennial plants providing conservation benefits.

For more information on riparian buffer systems, refer to the fact sheets.

What are the benefits of riparian buffers?

dragonfly on cattail

The benefits of riparian buffers are many:

  • control and reduce flooding by slowing and absorbing flood waters;

  • improve water quality as sediment and nutrients drop out of slowed waters and vegetation traps and absorb this material; 

  • the vegetation reduces stream bank erosion and stabilizes the stream channel morphology;

  • store and filter ground water allowing it to slowly percolate back into the water supply;

  • forest microbes convert nitrate to nitrogen gas through denitrification; 

  • provide shade for animals reducing water temperatures and supporting higher dissolved oxyen levels;

  • supplies food to aquatic ecosystems and provides critical animal habitat.

What types of land uses can impact riparian buffers?

Cow in stream
  • urban development
  • improper grazing practices
  • improper farming activities
  • over-use from recreational activities 
  • road building
  • improper timber harvest practices
Banner image credit: Edward Johnson,