RIPARIAN AREAS

riparian area in Juniper Flats
riparian area in Arrastre Canyon
riparian area among rock formations
Riparian areas are lands that occur along watercourses and water bodies. Typical examples include flood plains and streambanks. They are distinctly different from surrounding lands because of unique soil and vegetation characteristics that are strongly influenced by the presence of water.  In the western United States, riparian areas comprise less than 1 percent of the land area, but they are among the most productive and valuable natural resources. The linear nature of riparian ecosystems provides distinct corridors that are important as migration and dispersal routes and as forested connectors between habitats for wildlife.
 
Multiple Benefits
 
  • Riparian areas help control nonpoint source pollution by holding and using nutrients and reducing sediment.
  • Riparian areas are often important for the recreation and scenic values. However, because riparian areas are relatively small and occur in conjunction with watercourses, they are vulnerable to severe alteration and damages caused by people.
  • Riparian areas supply food, cover, and water for a large diversity of animals and serve as migration routes and stopping points between habitats for a variety of wildlife.
  • Trees and grasses in riparian areas stabilize streambanks and reduce floodwater velocity, resulting in reduced downstream flood peaks.
  • Alluvial aquifers help maintain the base flow in many rivers in humid areas because of high water tables. In drier climates, streams lose water that can help build up the water table deep beneath the stream.
 
Disturbances
 
Disturbances to riparian areas are many and varied.  Flooding is one of the natural disturbances which can change the character of the riparian habitat.  People's most common disturbance to riparian areas involves clearing vegetation and converting the area to other uses such as cropland, cattle grazing, logging and urban land. Overgrazing concentrates livestock in riparian areas for extended periods reduces the vegetation, and tramples streambanks.  Recreational development can destroy natural plant diversity and structure, lead to soil compaction and erosion, and disturb wildlife.  Exotic plants that take advantage of the good growing conditions found in riparian zones often invade these areas.  As exotic plants dominate native plants, the overall vegetative diversity decreases, resulting in less favorable habitat for most wildlife species.
 
Land use changes, paved-over areas, or the removal of vegetation cause water to flow quickly from a watershed and through a riparian zone.  Soil moisture storage and productivity are reduced.  This can lead to prolonged periods of no flow or low flow and increase frequency and duration of flooding, resulting in a drastic decline in productivity.
 
To avoid excessive damage, park, camp, and picnic at least 200 yards from a water source.
 
Please .............. “Leave No Trace”
 
Did you know that:
 
  • the flow of water through riparian soils regenerates ground water?
  • riparian vegetation can remove excess nutrients and sediment from surface runoff and shallow ground water? And that riparian vegetation shades streams to optimize light and temperature conditions for aquatic plants, fish, and other animals?
  • riparian areas provide important habitat for many endangered and threatened species and other wildlife and plants?
  • the appearance and boundary of riparian areas vary from site to site?
  • some riparian areas function and meet criteria established for wetlands?
  • the character of a riparian area is dependent upon the condition of the watershed in which it is located?
  • although riparian ecosystems generally occupy small areas on the landscape, they are usually more diverse and have more plants and animals than adjacent upland areas?
 
Juniper Flats Area Examples: Arrastre Waterfall, VP Mine Riparian Area. Cottonwood Spring, Stone Spring, and Round Mountain Spring.  There are over 20 seeps and springs in Arrastre, Lovelace and Grapevine Canyons and other locations in the Juniper Flats area.  Watch for a dramatic change in vegetation from the  hillsides to leafier plants in dry looking washes and valleys.