Restored Riparian Buffers as Tools for Ecosystem Restoration in the MAIA; Processes, Endpoints, and Measures of Success for Water, Soil, Flora, and Fauna

Research paper by Eric E. Jorgensen, Timothy J. Canfield, Frederick W. Kutz

Indexed on: 01 Jul '00Published on: 01 Jul '00Published in: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment


Riparian buffer restorations are used as management tools to produce favorable water quality impacts, moreover among the many benefits riparian buffers may provide, their application as instruments for water quality restoration rests on a relatively firm foundation of research. However, the extent to which buffers can restore riparian ecosystems; their functionality and species composition, are essentially unknown. In light of the foregoing, two broad areas of research are indicated. First, data are needed to document the relative effectiveness of riparian buffers that differ according to width, length, and plant species composition. These questions, of managing buffer dimension and species composition for functionality, are of central importance even when attenuation of nutrient and sediment loads alone are considered. Second, where ecosystem restoration is the goal, effects to in-stream and terrestrial riparian biota need to be considered. Relatedly, the effects of the restoration on the landscape need to be considered. Particularly, at what rate do the effects of the riparian buffer on in-stream water quality, biota, and habitat diminish downstream from restored sites? Answers to these important questions are needed, for streams and watersheds of different size and for areas of differing soil type within watersheds. U.S. EPA-NRMRL has initiated as research project that will document the potential for buffers to restore riparian ecosystems; focusing on water quality effects, but also, importantly, documenting effects on biota. While substantial riparian buffer management initiatives are already underway, the extent of landscapes that influence riparian ecosystems in the eastern United States is large; leaving ample opportunity for this suggested research to provide improved buffer designs in the future. The ultimate goal of research projects developed under this paradigm of ecosystem restoration is to develop data that are needed to implement riparian buffer restorations in the mid-Atlantic and elsewhere, especially the eastern United States.