Riparian area

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Simplified schematic of a riparian area

A Riparian area is the ribbon-like area of lush vegetation located adjacent to rivers, creeks, lakes, springs, wetlands and coulees. The increased moisture found in these areas produces unique plant communities that differ noticeably from surrounding crop and pasture land.[1] Although they make up only a small fraction of the land, they are among the most productive and valuable of all landscape types and have often been the focus of conflicts between resource users.[2]


  • Nesting and foraging sites for migratory songbirds
  • Critical habitat for wildlife (escape cover and shelter during harsh weather)
  • Serve to naturally purify water
  • Recharge groundwater
  • Dissipate wave, flow and ice energy[3]
  • Alleviate flooding
  • Reduce erosion by water
  • Add fertility to floodplain soils
  • Provide forage, shelter, shade, and sources of high quality water for livestock[4]


  1. Riparian Area Healthy Soils Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Online. Accessed 15 January 2008
  2. Riparian Areas Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Survey Cows and Fish. Accessed 15 January 2008
  3. Riparian Areas Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Survey op cit
  4. Riparian Area Healthy Soils op cit