Benefits of healthy riparian areas
Riparian areas can be found next to water sources, which include creeks and rivers as well as wetlands and lakeshores. Numerous benefits result from maintaining healthy riparian areas: this growth may reduce or prevent soil erosion, provide filtration and slow flooding. Riparian areas are important habitats as they provide food and shelter for fish and diverse species of wildlife. Careful attention to the health of riparian areas benefits both the environment and your operation.
Restoring riparian areas
If riparian growth has been damaged by grazing, clearing or erosion, there are several easy restoration techniques you can use:
Planting new growth
The simplest and least expensive is to plant live cuttings along the banks of riparian areas in locations that are neither too dry nor too wet. The cuttings should be planted about 6-8 feet from the bank. (Planting cuttings too far from water sources may cause them to dry out; planting them too close to water sources may cause them to wash away.)
Gather live shoots and thin branches (no more than one inch thick) from willow or poplar trees located close to the water source. Branches should be cut at both ends, leaving a length of 18 inches (about 46 cm). Make an angle cut on the end that will be going into the ground.
Dig a hole about 15-16 inches into the ground and then put the angled end of the shoot into soil with good moisture quality, leaving only 2 - 3 inches (about 6 cm) out of the ground. Pat the dirt around it; there should be good soil connectivity around the branch.
Riparian growth may also recover naturally if it is left undisturbed. Preventing livestock from going near the water body is another type of remediation. You could fence alongside riparian areas or consider installing an off-site watering system.
More information on planning a riparian planting project and/or managing riparian areas in general is available from the Alberta Riparian Health Management Society (commonly known as Cows and Fish) at http://cowsandfish.org/
This article may be reprinted with the credit: Alberta Environmental Farm Plan. For more how-to fact sheets or other information, visit www.albertaEFP.com.