Browse by Subject
Contact Information

Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs / Clean Air and Water / Riparian Forest Health
Clean Air and Water

Riparian Forest Health

Riparian (or river- & stream-bank) areas are vital to healthy surface and groundwater systems. They can influence nutrient and carbon processing and surface water quality, thus providing clean water for human populations as well as habitat for aquatic animals and plants. Riparian woodlands and forests are particularly effective buffers that help to remove water pollutants, especially from agricultural run off.

Selected Research Studies

Photo: Weir at Hubbard Brook Experimental ForestHubbard Brook Experimental Forest
The White Mountain and Green Mountain National Forests rely on research findings from Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest to develop forest plans, comply with the National Forest Management and Clean Air Acts, and address public challenges to management activities. NRS scientists who work at the HBEF synthesize research findings and data to help these national forests meet these needs.


Photo: Bearver pond.Riparian lands in the midwest
The Midwest, particularly in its far northern reaches, is a land full of glacial pothole lakes and wetlands. NRS scientists have made the first-ever estimations of riparian lands and found that 8 to 13% of the land base in the region is riparian, depending on the buffer width selected. Of this total, 72% supports forest or other relatively natural vegetation, 26% has been converted to agriculture, and less than 2% is in urban development. Alternate delineation methods can dramatically increase the amount of riparian lands by two times more in some places. Almost half of the Midwest region's riparian areas are associated with wetlands.


Photo: river through forested area.Restoration of streambank ecosystems
Many urban riparian areas have been blocked by storm water drainage projects. Culverts may block flow and not allow fish migration, and stream straightening has precluded natural ecosystems. NRS scientists are studying the restoration of streambank ecosystems. We have developed easy-to-use guides to design and install culverts of the right size at the right locations.


Last Modified: 03/06/2013