When you hear the words “forest” or “environment,” what comes to your mind? I’d venture to say a green, faceless workforce is the last thing you’d describe it as. Yet it’s probably more accurate in describing what a forested environment does for us on a daily basis. When this green workforce is along the water’s edge it’s called a riparian buffer. These strips of diverse vegetation are about 20 to 100 feet wide, and play a key role in supporting the health of the environment, yours, mine, and the wildlife that make it their safe haven. Not only do they offer health and aesthetic benefits but they also offer economic benefits. Did you know that riparian buffers can actually help prevent or reduce the damage done to homes and communities during heavy rainfalls since they can slow down moving waters?
The combination of heavy rainfalls and little or no vegetation along embankments can lead to sediment erosion, which is one of the top most pollutants to moving water. A strong riparian buffer has a mixed root system of native trees, shrubs, flowers, plants, and grasses which effectively holds the sediment in place along with the additional aid of an annual falling of leaf cover. Riparian buffers not only keep erosion at bay and reduce flooding problems but also act as a main line of defense for absorbing and filtering other pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals from moving water. While the water and soil is being filtered through the roots of trees and shrubs, simultaneously the leaves clean up the air we breathe in too!
There is something special to note about stream-bank trees since they are the primary worker maintaining the appropriate water and climate temperatures as well as oxygen levels in the air and water. Aquatic populations such as invertebrates, fish, and other aquatic wildlife depend on these conditions for survival. The great Hemlock Trees are our primary trees along mountain stream banks and rocky edges. Lastly, riparian buffers offer wildlife habitat and a sense of security while they quench their thirst, rest during migratory or travel routes, and offer benefit to those who enjoy watching wildlife.
What can you do
If you have a creek, pond, stream, or river running through or along your property and would like steward your environment, a riparian buffer can easily be established with very little maintenance. Planting native trees, shrubs, and grasses along the water’s edge is a great way to get started. If you’re unsure about what to plant or how to get started you can call up your states’ forestry nursery, forestry department, your county’s university extension office, or your state’s environment and conservation office. These offices can point you in the right direction for your property.
If you don’t have any property that needs a riparian buffer, you can be a steward of your local environment by contacting your local county and town officials to share with them your thoughts about the importance and impact of riparian buffers for your local community.
BiGi! (Be informed. Get involved.)
Next time you’re driving down the road and you see a waterway that meanders through a forested corridor, you’ll know you’re looking at a riparian buffer and how essential they are to the health of your local ecosystem and you. If we take care of the environment it will in turn provide for our needs with minimal effort on our part. At the end of the day the biggest thing you can do is BiGi with your world!
It’s no surprise to any of us at this point that we live, eat, and breathe in a global economy. Food and raw materials get shipped back and forth across the globe to produce end-user products at the demands the market will pay. However, the economy is not the only thing that makes this world function.
Our environment is the economy’s very foundation and therefore is in as much demand for our attention as that current payment-due bill sitting in front of you. However, because the local ecosystems which makes up our biosphere does not produce a statement due date each month the environment is an issue that tends to get put on the back burner in our day-to-day activities and demands. Albeit important to each of us at some level one way or another, it doesn’t hound us if we don’t make that payment on time. The good news is that there is something small each of us can do that can make a big impact together. It doesn’t require any extra activities or monies to donate. Each time you make a purchase simply look for the FSC, SFI, and Made in the USA labels if you're not already doing so.
Companies like the American Tree Farm System, Forest Stewardship Council, and the Sustainable Forest Initiative work with sustainable forest product sources. Their producers are conscientious about the invasive species and diseases that effect their forest and your end product, as well as the replanting efforts after a timber harvest. The purchases with a Made in the USA label simply helps minimize the invite and free international travel for invasive bugs, plants, and forest diseases that destroy our native habitats. Likewise, we are sending ours bugs and forest diseases overseas that's destroying their native habitats as well.
Since making a purchase is something you do almost every day. Why not make it count? It’s one more way you can help your environment out worldwide! To learn more about the problem of invasive species in your area contact your state’s department of forestry or state’s conservation and environment agencies. For a great site that will introduce you to some of the top threats nationwide and see what Tennessee is doing with agency partnership and private landowners to combat the problems check out ProtectTNForests.org. Protect USA forests and global environments by making your purchases count. Be informed. Get involved. It’s your world!