Riparian Buffers Increase Environmental Value

In a study finalized in August 2018, riparian buffers planted along streams provided an economic value to the environment! What exactly is a riparian buffer? This Best Management Practice is a vegetated strip of land along waterways that help protect the water from earth-disturbing activities that may impact water quality and other ecological issues. Planting trees, shrubs, flowering plants, and grasses provide a natural filtering system that can remove sediment, and create a better habitat for insects and wildlife.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection has endorsed restoration of riparian buffers as a key to reduce stormwater containing pollutants from entering these streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. The minimum recommended width of an effective buffer is 35 feet, but any buffer can help with reduction of erosion.

This new study, conducted by ECONorthwest, (ECONorthwest, "The Economic Value of Riparian Buffers in the Delaware River Basin," Delaware Riverkeeper Network, 2018.) discovered that nearly half of riparian forests in the Delaware River Basin have been cleared, and remaining areas are negatively impacted by suburban development. This study assessed the loss of ecosystem services, such as drinking water quality, property values, recreational opportunities, and other services, and compared them to the benefits of an effective riparian buffer. A monetary value was then assigned to the benefits of the ecosystems provided by the buffered areas.

Based on this collected data, the study found that riparian buffers can positively affect air quality, flood mitigation, recreation, wildlife habitats, and other areas.