Riparian areas are shorelines- the strips of land beside streams, wetlands, lakes and other water bodies. They support a community of moisture-loving plants that are distinctly different from aquatic plants and from the plants growing in drier grasslands and open forests.
In the dry Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, wetland and riparian areas are at a premium. Up to 90% of these habitats have been lost to channelization and agricultural and urban development.
A healthy riparian area has different kinds of trees, of varied ages and heights, a thick underbrush layer, and other lush vegetation.
80% of all wildlife are directly dependent on riparian ecosystems or use them more frequently than other habitats!
WHO LIVES HERE?
WHY ARE RIPARIAN AREAS IMPORTANT?
Act as natural filters, filtering sediments and pollutants from runoff.
Roots provide flood protection by slowing and dissipating high stream flows.
Stabilize stream banks, reducing soil erosion and siltation, protecting croplands and pastures.
Provide shaded, cooler, moist green belts that protect wildlife and fish from the hot Okanagan summers.
Trap snow, adding further moisture to your agricultural fields by releasing it slowly.
IMPROVE CROPS AND PASTURES
Create a barrier for invasive plants such as puncturevine and knapweed which could otherwise reduce crop quantity and quality.
Provide habitat for beneficial insects which can aid in pest control and pollination in agricultural setting
Riparian areas have a multi-layered canopy, thick underbrush and a variety of trees and shrubs that provide food, nesting sites, shelter and escape cover for wildlife.
YOU CAN HELP!
LEAVE A BUFFER
Designate a no mow zone along the shoreline. Often, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a healthy buffer of riparian plants. Consider planting native riparian plants in order to enhance your streamside buffer.
KEEP PETS AWAY FROM STREAMS
Animal waste should be stored well away from stream edges as it can contaminate drinking water. Pets can erode streambanks, causing siltation and their activity disturbs and they may even kill wildlife directly.
LANDSCAPE WITH CARE
Despite good intentions, changes you make near streams may destroy riparian habitat.
AVOID PESTICIDES, HERBICIDES & FERTILIZERS
Avoid using pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers whenever possible. If you must use them, follow manufacturer's recommendations.
KEEP LITTER AND GARDEN WASTE OUT OF STREAMS
Trash can collect into "jams" and block water flow. Branches, grass clippings and weeds rot and reduce oxygen in the water and some garden plants may be invasive.
MANAGE INVASIVE PLANTS
Learn about invasive plants, like yellow flag iris and burdock, and how to manage them.
INSTALL NEST BOXES
Provide nesting, roosting and perching locations for birds and bats.
Livestock feces can contaminate drinking water, they eat riparian plants and contribute to erosion and siltation of streams. Fencing, with a nose-in for limited water access, is an extremely effective method of protecting our drinking water quality.
While they may look a bit messy, dead standing trees, tangled bushes and fallen logs are important habitat for wildlife and help to protect shorelines from erosion.
If you are taking care of a riparian area on your property, contact us to find out how to become a steward by emailing info [at] osstewardship [dot] ca
Riparian areas throughout British Columbia are protected by the Riparian Areas Regulation as well as the Water Sustainability Act. Before doing any work in or around a riparian area, consult Front Counter BC AND your local government office whether you be planning development or "undevelopment".
Any work within a riparian area is subject to permits and/or notifications.