June 5, 2017

Erosion Concerns? Try a Riparian Buffer

If you own property that borders a stream and have concerns with the banks eroding and/or water quality, there are some relatively simple measures that you can take to alleviate the problems.  Sometimes the impact is too great, and steps are needed to provide armoring or protection, but if the erosion is not too severe, riparian buffers may be the answer to your worries.

Property owners that mow or weed right to the stream are setting themselves up for erosion problems.  Turf grass has very shallow roots which do a poor job of holding soil in place.  As a result, there is very little under the ground holding the soil in place, and it can be more easily washed away during high stream flows.  When natural vegetation is allowed to grow along a stream’s banks, the benefits are amazing.  When trees, shrubs and native grasses become established along a stream, it is referred to as a riparian buffer.  These plants have deep root systems which do a very good job of holding soil in place.

Buffers also provide many other benefits.  They shade and cool to the stream, which helps promote a healthy and diverse fish community.  Buffers are very effective at filtering pollutants such as lawn fertilizers, animal waste, and pesticides.  They also provide wildlife corridors and habitat.

Clermont SWCD suggests a buffer width of 25 feet for small streams, and increasing the width as the drainage area and stream gets bigger.  However, any buffer width is better than none at all.  The greater the width, the more positive impacts there will be for the stream.  Some plant species that will work well in a stream buffer zone include sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), willows (Salix sp.), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), and grasses such as meadow sage (Salvia pratensis) and different varieties of rushes (Juncus sp.)

If you have any questions or would like any guidance in establishing your own riparian buffer, contact us at 513-732-7075, or by email at jhahn@clermontcountyohio.gov.