Chapter 8: Riparian Areas and Change

By G. Zaimes and M. Crimmins


Riparian Areas and Change

To find out more about changes of the vegetation in the riparian areas of the southwestern United States check out the following book:


The Ribbon of Green: Change in Riparian Vegetation in the Southwestern United States, by Robert H. Webb, Stanley A. Leake and Raymond M. Turner.



Do riparian areas change through time or are they relatively the same?


How long will it take for a riparian area to change?


What will cause a riparian area to change?


How will climate change impact riparian areas?


These are very important question when trying to manage riparian areas.



Riparian areas are very dynamic, disturbance-driven that change through time. Climatic factors like precipitation and temperature can have major impacts on riparian areas. Precipitation is one of the major drivers for stream flow. Stream flow and particularly major floods can heavily impact riparian areas. Typically major flood will clear the existing vegetation and deposit new material like soil and nutrients in the riparian areas that will help the regeneration of the vegetation communities of these areas. Droughts can also impact riparian areas. Extensive droughts can lead to encroachment of vegetation into the stream channel. In other cases the dryer condition in the riparian areas could lead to changes in the stream flow condition and the riparian vegetation composition. Finally when looking at riparian areas no one should forget about how human actions can influence these areas.



To better understand these concepts look at the following riparian photo-series. 

Photo Series 1


Photo Series 2


Photo Series 3


Photo Series 4