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What is a Riparian Margin & what can it do for Water Quality?

What is a Riparian Margin & what can it do for Water Quality?

A Riparian Margin is the land that runs alongside our rivers and streams. Here, Fiona Doolan, Teagasc ASSAP Advisor, Co. Laois, talks about a variety of riparian margins. She explains the benefits of a riparian margin on water quality and the role it plays in protecting rivers and streams

What is a Riparian Margin?

A Riparian Margin is the land that runs alongside our rivers and streams. They can vary in width and type but in simple terms they are basically the corridors that are adjacent to our water bodies. The objective of a riparian margin is to protect the river by creating buffer zones alongside them where little or no agricultural activity takes place. Correctly planned and located Riparian margins can be effective in reducing surface water runoff or pollutants from entering waterbodies.

Riparian Margins can range in width from 2m to 30m and sometimes beyond this. Wider riparian margins are beneficial, particularly in more sloped, marginal land where there is a greater risk of overland runoff carrying nutrient and sediment with it.

What do Riparian Margins look like?

In their simplest form they can be an unfenced grass margin – unfertilised and uncultivated yet trapping nutrients from slurry and fertilisers and preventing them making their way into the stream.

Fenced Riparian margins will also prevent access by livestock – reducing damage that could potentially be caused along the banks. Overtime, fenced riparian margins can allow for natural vegetation to become established in the area. The wider the margin, the more protection offered, particularly important in sloped poorer draining land.

Hedgerows and trees in riparian margins can work to improve bank stability – their roots holding the bank together preventing erosion. In some cases Riparian margins can be wider larger areas, devoted to woodland / scrub or natural habitat– encouraging nature as well as protecting Water Quality. Riparian margins such as these provide other environmental benefits including increased biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

Riparian Margins can be in many different forms yet despite the differences in what they contain, all riparian margins have the potential to protect the rivers and streams they are adjacent to and enhancing the wider environment around them.

In this short video Clip Fiona Doolan, ASSAP Advisor shows us a few good examples of Riparian Margins

For more information see Water Quality Week