50 Stories: What is a Riparian Forest Buffer?

Over one-third of the land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is either covered by development or agriculture. This poses obstacles to water quality in the form of nutrients, sediments, and other pollutants, but also to terrestrial wildlife that have little or no habitat in these settings. Luckily, both water quality and wildlife habitat issues can be addressed with one management practice: buffering streams and water bodies with forest cover.

Healthy streams and watersheds rely on functional riparian forest corridors. A streamside forest will trap and filter nutrients and sediment from the uplands that would otherwise flow into the stream, and the overhanging tree canopy will cool down the water to make it suitable for trout and other native aquatic fauna. They can also be important for terrestrial wildlife, especially in landscapes dominated by agriculture or development. Stream corridors that hold trees, dense shrubs/saplings, and native herbaceous vegetation provide breeding, foraging, and escape cover for an array of upland and lowland wildlife species that would other have little to eat and no shelter from predators or the elements.

As the Alliance celebrates 50 years, we are proud to be noticed as one of the first organizations to plant riparian forest buffers in the Chesapeake region. The Alliance started planting riparian forest buffers in the early 90s and continues this work annually. If you’re interested in learning more, visit forestsforthebay.org or sign up to volunteer at allianceforthebay.org.

Ryan Davis

Ryan Davis

Senior Forests Projects Manager

Pennsylvania Office


(717) 517 8698