Riparian Area Basics

May 13, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

The term “riparian” is defined as "vegetation, habitats, or ecosystems that are associated with bodies of water (for example streams, springs or ponds)) or depend on perennial or intermittent surface or subsurface water."
" Put more simply, riparian areas are the green ribbons of trees, shrubs, and herbs growing along watercourses. Some riparian features we enjoy include the cottonwood groves where we like to picnic along sandy river beds, the green, shady areas next to the stream where we like to fish, and wetlands with ducks, tadpoles and dragonflies.

A typical healthy riparian area


Riparian areas occur in a wide range of climatic, hydrologic, and ecological environments. Different latitudes and altitudes can support very different riparian communities. This is caused primarily by differences in soil, water and temperature. In the western United States, riparian areas occur from high elevation montane meadows or forests through intermediate elevation woodlands to low elevation shrublands and desert grasslands.


Related Pages

What Is a Riparian Area?

Types of Riparian Areas - Is It Lentic or Lotic?

Riparian Vegetation - What Is It and Why Is It Important?

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.