Date of this Version
Journal of Forestry, Volume 95, Number 8, 1 August 1997, pp. 38-41(4).
In the last 200 years, cultivation, grazing, and other activities initiated by humans have destroyed more than 80 percent of the strips of vegetation along North American and European streams and other bodies of water (Decamps and Naiman 1989; Petts et al. 1989). This disappearance of the riparian zones is continuing with little concern for ecological consequences. At the same time, riparian buffer strips are being promoted as a preferred management practice in the United States, especially in the Great Plains, to protect water resources from soil and chemical pollution (Schoeneberger 1994; Schoeneberger et al. 1995; Schultz et al. 1995a; Wight et al. 1995; Rietveld 1996). Few natural riparian zones remain, however, to serve as models (Naiman et al. 1993). New riparian systems, designed and implemented to provide ecosystem stability despite limited biodiversity offer food and habitat for both beneficial and pest organisms.
The riparian zone is defined as a three-dimensional area adjacent to water that interacts with both aquatic and terrestrial systems. Such zones absorb contaminated runoff before it joins the surface water or delay its flow (Gregory et aI. 1991; Xiang 1996). In an agroforestry ecosystem, along with neighboring hedgerows and other woody plantings, they help control soil erosion and floods, protect livestock, produce 38 August 1997 biomass, and increase economic yields. These benefits are the primary reason that riparian zones are included in agroforestry sysrem management and aquatic system restoration (Naiman et al. 1993), but riparian zones also increase ecosystem diversity by providing refuge (habitat, food, and protection) for plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates in an otherwise adverse environment.