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Riparian buffer zones are patches of land adjacent to rivers, streams and drains, removed from intensive production. When designed correctly, they play a significant role in the reduction of diffuse inputs from agriculture entering our waterbodies.

Buffer zones provide a variety of environmental and ecological services, including:

  • a habitat for biodiversity
  • alleviating flood threat
  • greenhouse gas exchanges
  • recreational services. 

The SMARTER_BufferZ (Specific Management And Robust Targeting of Riperian Buffer Zones) project aims to ensure optimal targeting and management of riparian buffers for the effective management of Irish rivers.

Narrow grass buffers are often insufficient to intercept diffuse inputs such as Phosphorus along with sediment being lost from fields through overland flow. A wider buffer area is often required along with rough dense vegetation or raised ground in a targeted approach. Well designed and managed riparian buffers will slow flows and trap nutrients and sediment. The introduction of trees in these areas can act as a barrier to spray drift, shade streams and stabilise river banks while the roots can absorb soil nutrients.

When installing riparian buffers on farms a chain of treatment or mitigation action works best. This can include good soil and field management along with well-designed and maintained targeted riparian buffers.

Get more information on SMARTER_BufferZ here

View more content from Water Quality Week here