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The term riparian comes from the Latin word ripa, 'river bank'; though, 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.
Riparian forests are subject to frequent inundation.
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.
Threats to riparian forest:
- Cleared for agriculture because of the good soil in riparian forest
- Woods are removed for steamships, railroads, etc.
- Urban development
- Disrupted hydrology, such as dams and levees, which causes less flooding
- Invasive species
- "Assessing the Need for a Riparian Management System (RiMS)"—Iowa State University Extension Bulletin (2002)