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For Those Not In the Know: Riparian Zone Defined

Friday, January 14th, 2011
By Christa

In last week’s post about whether going green should be a moral duty, commenter Carla brought up “zoning regulations limiting Riparian development” as it pertains to how far one should go when it comes to dictating green behavior. Now I do sometimes like to pretend I know everything about everything, but that’s just not true, and the word riparian gave me pause. It’s just not a word I’d heard before, so of course I had to go and look it up. Here’s what Wikipedia had to say:

A riparian zone or riparian area is the interface between land and a river or stream. Riparian is also the proper nomenclature for one of the fifteen terrestrial biomes of the earth. Plant habitats and communities along the river margins and banks are called riparian vegetation, characterized by hydrophilic plants. Riparian zones are significant in ecology, environmental management, and civil engineering because of their role in soil conservation, their habitat biodiversity, and the influence they have on fauna and aquatic ecosystems, including grassland, woodland, wetland or even non-vegetative. In some regions the terms riparian woodland, riparian forest, riparian buffer zone, or riparian strip are used to characterize a riparian zone.

Well, huh. It never really struck me before, but now that I think about it, it’s pretty obvious that the strip of land on either side of a body of running water will always be important and often a bit different from the surrounding landscape for a variety of reasons. Riparian, riparian, riparian! It’s one of those words I think I’ll be glad to have picked up in the future, and I hope you’ll keep it in the back of your mind, as well.

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