West Virginia Conservation Agency  •  1900 Kanawha Blvd. E. •  Charleston, WV 25305  •  304-558-2204
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Riparian Areas and Buffers

Riparian areas are lands adjacent to creeks, streams, and rivers where vegetation is strongly influenced by the presence of water. Excluded are such sites as ephemeral streams or washes that do not exhibit the presence of vegetation dependent upon free water in the soil. Riparian areas may constitute less than 1 percent of the land area in the western part of the United States, but they are among the most productive and valuable of all lands. The natural vegetation stretching along a stream or river is called the riparian buffer. Many states allow timber harvesting in riparian buffers if the harvesting is consistent with land use designation or management objectives and it is done properly with Best Management Practices.

These buffers provide many benefits.
  • Buffers trap sediment from road runoff and other soil disturbances within the harvest area.
  • Buffers will continue to provide a source of large wood and detritus for stream functions and aquatic macroinveterbrates.
  • Buffers provide leaf food for aquatic life.
  • Buffers provide shade, keeping temperatures from becoming too high for aquatic life.
  • Buffers filter water
  • Buffers provide habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.
  • Buffers take up nutrients and store these in leaves, limbs, and roots instead of allowing them to reach streams in large pulses, which overload the system.

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