Decision's at the Water's Edge: Sustaining Riparian Landscapes

Home About Riparian Areas Project Summaries


Fostering multidisciplinary research to understand, predict, and monitor the effects of land use on the diverse benefits people gain from riparian areas.

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. 

Problem 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. 
Problem Area 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. 

Problem 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.