USDA Forest Service

North Central Research Station


North Central Research Station
1992 Folwell Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108

(651) 649-5000

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service., the U.S. government's official web portal.

Introducing the Northern Research Station

The North Central Research Station and the Northeastern Research Station have joined to form the Northern Research Station. Our 20-state region spans the Midwest from Minnesota to Missouri and the Northeast from Maine to Maryland.

Integrated Research Programs 
Riparian Landscapes

Beaver pond in Northern MichiganHow much riparian area do we have?

Although determining how much riparian area we have seems like a simple task, itís not. The process is complicated by the crucial first step of defining what areas actually are riparian. The first-ever estimation of riparian lands in the Midwest region indicates that 8 to 13 percent of the land base in the region is riparian depending on the buffer width selected. Of this total, 72 percent supports forest or other relatively natural vegetation, 26 percent has been converted to agriculture, and less than 2 percent is in urban development. Alternate delineation methods can dramatically increase the amount of riparian landsóby two times more in some places. Almost half of the Midwest regionís riparian areas are associated with wetlands.

Whoís using riparian areas and whatís happening to these areas?

People and wildlife depend on riparian areas. Many riparian areas are special places for experiences that significantly enhance mental well-being. Many urban rivers provide new recreation opportunities for city dwellers who may have little access to rural riparian areas. However, the intensity of recreation and development in riparian areas threatens their long-term ecological health.

Canoers on the Manistee river.We are developing a variety of tools for managers to protect and restore the health of riparian areas. One tool involves constructing riparian profiles to help managers identify future development hotspots and to show how forest buffers can mitigate competing land uses, provide habitat, and protect riparian areas. Computer models and new silvicultural techniques are other tools that can enhance timber production, improve regeneration, and protect critical habitat.

How do we rehabilitate riparian areas?

Ecological classification maps we have developed will help identify what restoration tools or approaches can be used on various sites. Our research on industrial brownfields is showing us what it takes to restore the ecological health of these areas. Guidelines we have developed for accurately determining streambank elevation are assisting in riparian and stream restoration, enhancement, and stabilization efforts that depend on this type of information. We have developed easy-to-use guides to design and install culverts of the right size and in the right location. Using these guidelines not only ensures culverts meet road crossing requirements but also increases the likelihood that these streams will provide healthy habitat.

Riparian Landscapes | Goals | Project Summaries

USDA Forest Service - North Central Research Station
Last Modified: Wednesday, 29 September 2004

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