Riparian forest

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A dry riparian forest in Western Sydney

A riparian forest or riparian woodland is a forested or wooded area of land adjacent to a body of water such as a river, stream, pond, lake, marshland, estuary, canal, sink or reservoir.


The term riparian comes from the Latin word ripa, 'river bank'; technically it only refers to areas adjacent to flowing bodies of water such as rivers, streams, sloughs and estuaries. However, the terms riparian forest and riparian zone have come to include areas adjacent to non-flowing bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, playas and reservoirs.


A riparian forest area along a tributary to Lake Erie

Riparian forests are subject to frequent inundation.

Riparian forests help control sediment, reduce the damaging effects of flooding and aid in stabilizing stream banks.

Riparian zones are transition zones between an upland terrestrial environment and an aquatic environment. Organisms found in this zone are adapted to periodic flooding. Many not only tolerate it, but require it in order to maintain health and complete their lifestyles.[1]


Threats to riparian forests:

  • Cleared for agricultural use because of the good soil quality
  • Historically, trees used as wood fuel for steamships, steam locomotives, etc.[2]
  • Urban development (housing, roads, malls, etc.)
  • Grazing
  • Mining
  • Disrupted hydrology, such as dams and levees, which reduces the amount and/or frequency of flooding
  • Invasive species

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Molles, M.C. Jr. (2008). Ecology: Concepts and Applications (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 291. ISBN 0-07-330976-1.
  2. ^[bare URL PDF]

External links[edit]