Riparian Buffer

Riparian Buffer

Agroforestry: Southern Region Resources on Sustainable Woodland Management and Land Use Conservation

Riparian Buffer

A riparian buffer is a vegetative zone, mainly shrubs and trees, along a water source, such as a stream, river or watershed that protects the area from degraded water quality and non-point source pollution. Agricultural practices, such as livestock grazing and farming of crops and forages that result in nutrient run-off, can be a source of pollution that impacts water sources. Stream and riparian damage resulting from grazing can include alterations in watershed hydrology, changes to stream morphology, soil compaction and erosion, destruction of vegetation, and water quality impairments. Excessive nutrient run-off can lead to accelerated eutrophication -- a natural process of increasing organic matter in water sources that is greatly sped up by human activities, resulting in depleted oxygen availability and death of animals and vegetation.

A riparian buffer as a best management practice is designed to improve environmental quality and the health and productivity of farms and livestock. Previous studies demonstrated that improved quality of waters consumed by cattle led to greater calf weight at birth and increased grazing. Moreover, they showed that improved water quality and forage conditions can optimize productivity. Riparian buffers can also slow flooding, trap sediment, filter nutrient pollutants and slow the eutrophication process.

The following SSARE-funded resources provide information on best management practices that keep agricultural practices productive while protecting water environments and natural resources.

Bull Run Creek Watershed Restoration Action Plan


A study of best water management practices. This plan identifies a suite of essential projects needed to improve aquatic habitat in the Bull Run Creek watershed.

Download File (2.89 MB)

SARE and Water Issues


Southern SARE Addresses Water Quality

Download File (105.36 kB)

Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region. This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, under sub-award numbers: LS03-182 and GS04-038. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Resources from Other SARE Regions

North Central SARE

Maintenance of Natural Sustainable Riparian Communities

Riparian fact sheets

Fact sheets on riparian ecosystems in North Dakota.

Western SARE

Conservation Buffers in Organic Systems

Conservation Buffers Cover

A manual that provides guidance on installing buffers in organic production systems.