Fostering multidisciplinary research to understand, predict, and
monitor the effects of land use on the diverse benefits people gain from
Why We Care About Riparian Areas?
Few regions of the country have a greater predominance of riparian areas,
or more potential for conflict among their use, than the North Central
region of the United States. Water and associated riparian resources are
particularly important in this region. For example, the seven national
forests of the upper Great Lakes states possess only four percent of total
Forest Service lands, yet they contain 41 percent of Forest Service lakes,
reservoirs, and ponds. More broadly, 15 percent of surface area within the
seven-state North Central region is riparian by conservative definitions.
Additional factors, including the importance of lakes and open-water
wetlands and the intensity of residential and recreational development,
increase the importance of riparian areas in the region and heighten
conflicts among users.
We conceived of the Sustaining Riparian Landscapes program with the great
importance of water resources in the North Central region in mind. Our
goal is to better understand riparian ecological services, as well as the
broader array of societal benefits gained from these areas. Ultimately,
our aim is to provide better information to guide management and
policy-making decisions on riparian land use.
Central Research Question
The central question currently guiding Program efforts is:
How does diverse land use in the north central region change riparian
area structure, impact ecological functions, and influence the benefits
people derive from riparian resources?
We identify three interrelated problem areas as critical for addressing
the central question.
Area 1. Quantifying riparian areas: extent, function, and benefits
A fundamental constraint to understanding riparian land use issues
in the north central region is the lack of good assessments of the
resource at appropriate scales. Research under this problem focuses on
quantifying riparian resources, including extent, condition, and
economic/social value, and understanding relationships between
ecological condition and social/economic value.
2: Impacts to riparian areas: factors affecting function and value
Quantifying the degree of alteration with different types of land
use is important if we are to mitigate impacts on riparian and aquatic
resources. A significant contribution of this program is our ability to
conduct and synthesize research on management impacts. Several projects
contribute to this area by addressing impacts to biodiversity and water
quality from different types of land use.
Area 3: Rehabilitating riparian areas
Restoration or rehabilitation of ecological function and social value is
a primary concern in degraded riparian areas. Several efforts in the
Station focus on riparian restoration or rehabilitation.
The problem areas reflect a natural relationship of information needs
for the region (Conceptual Relationship among the Problem Areas). We need
better quantification of riparian areas, from biophysical and social
perspectives, we need region-specific understanding of land use impacts to
riparian functions and values, and we need continued research on
rehabilitation and restoration approaches for degraded riparian areas,
particularly in forested landscapes.
IP Stuff\FY 2000 Activities Report.doc
Conceptual Relationship among the Problem Areas
Quantification of riparian areas takes place along all segments of the
temporal gradient, after landuse impacts and rehabilitation.