||One of the most effective ways to protect rivers is to preserve the lands adjacent to them. These crucial riverside lands are known to ecologists as "riparian buffer zones," which buffer the waterway from various substances that might otherwise wash directly into the river--silt, for example, or pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Riparian buffers have a tremendous influence on water quality.|
The simplest, cheapest, most
efficient solution to many water-quality problems is simply to leave a
strip of undisturbed natural areas along rivers and streams.
The USDA's Natural
Resources Conservation Service has launched a National
Conservation Buffer Initiative to help encourage riparian zone
Conservation Buffer Initiative Contacts in Maine:
Plant roots hold the river banks in place, stabilizing the soil and absorbing materials that wash toward the river during rainfall and snowmelt. These riparian buffers protect the waterway and provide habitat for many plants, insects, birds, and animals--and they provide beautiful natural spaces for people to enjoy.
Unfortunately, because many people don't understand the ecological importance of these areas, they destroy them. Developers often build along riverbanks, timber harvesters sometimes cut to the shore, and homeowners clear trees and shrubs from riverbanks so their lawn can extend to the water's edge.
result is serious erosion, siltation, increased flooding, higher pollution
levels, and habitat loss. This means not only aesthetic
degradation, but economic expense.
What can we do to help protect riparian buffer zones?