Trees, shrubs, and other types of vegetation in a streamside forest make up a filter strip along waterways known as a forest riparian buffer.
These plants buffer waterways from the impacts of surrounding land use. The plants prefer moist to very wet soil and can withstand the disturbance of water flowing over and around them. Riparian buffers provide many vital and beneficial functions, including:
- Slowing flood waters and reducing the volume of water through root absorption
- Improving water quality by filtering runoff and promoting sediment deposition
- Allowing water storage in plant roots and providing pathways to groundwater layers
- Providing canopy cover which shades and cools the stream, which improves habitat conditions for organisms in the water, and which provides relief from heat for terrestrial animals
- Providing habitat for a variety of birds and small mammals, and acting as corridors for wildlife habitat, providing food, shelter and nesting sites.
- Providing great opportunities for recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, bird watching, picnicking and camping.
The state of Maryland currently has a number of incentive programs for private landowners that will cover the majority of the cost to establish and maintain a forest buffer.