Riparian vegetation protects streams by slowing surface runoff, absorbing nutrients and trapping sediment and other contaminants before they reach the water. It stabilizes stream banks and protects them from different types of erosion. It also provides shade, reducing light levels and water temperatures and preventing the excessive growth of nuisance plants and algae. Riparian vegetation is an essential source of the food that underpins native aquatic ecosystems in the form of leaves, twigs, fruit and insects. The large pieces of wood that fall into streams and undercut banks protected by plant roots are crucial aquatic habitat.
Riparian vegetation can also protect and enhance adjacent agricultural production. It buffers crops and pastures from the wind and windborne materials, and provides habitat for beneficial animals such as insect pollinators and predators of pests. Livestock can shelter from harsh weather and graze understorey grasses and shrubs in riparian land: gain shade during hot seasons and shelter from wind during cold weather, are vital for survival and for optimal growth and production of domestic stock in many parts of Australia. Riparian vegetation itself can form part of the farm’s production system, sequestering carbon. supplying wood products like timber, poles, posts, firewood and charcoal, or non-wood products like seeds, essential oils, foliage, honey, bushfoods and pharmaceuticals.
Riparian areas and their streams and creeks are also special places for people, and are often highly valued for recreation, their beauty, and as a place to relax and enjoy nature. These are important values and benefits in both rural and urban settings. The Rivers of Carbon program (RoC) works with landholders to maximise the productivity, environmental, social and cultural benefits intact riparian areas provide. A vital part of our work is sharing what we know and learning from others. This is why we are always updating our resources and providing as much support as we can to those who want to protect and restore their rivers, creeks, billabongs and wetlands. If you want to know more about the science underpinning our project you might like to explore our ‘What is a river of carbon?’ webpage, or access the publications below. We also have a page on our Monitoring and Evaluation approach that details the science behind the processes we use to track change over time.
What is a River of Carbon? This 12-page Guideline is easy to read and provides the science behind the carbon cycle, greenhouse gases, carbon sequestration, and how we can create ‘rivers of carbon’ for environmental and economic benefits. Written by Jann Williams, Phil Price, Michael Rooney and Siwan Lovett, it moves beyond a simple fact sheet to provide clear, concise and accurate information about the opportunities ‘biodiverse carbon’ offers for landholders.
This checklist uses photographs and explanations about what a riparian area in poor, moderate and good condition looks like. It is easy to use and identifies the key characteristics of a healthy riparian zone, and the management actions that can be used to protect and restore these zones depending on their condition.
Rapid Appraisal of Riparian Condition for the southern tablelands of New South Wales – this is a more technical assessment tool that does require someone with a more detailed ecosytem knowledge of riparian areas. There is training available for groups of 5 people or more at a small cost of $25 per head. If you are interested in some training get in touch with us.
On the Australian River Restoration Centre website there is also an extensive resources section on ‘Managing rivers’ that has been organised against the most common river and riparian management issues. The links below take you to the wide selection of fact sheets, guidelines, manuals and tools all based on rigorous science and best management practice: