Have you ever heard the term riparian, or riparian zone?
Dictionary.com defines riparian as “of, pertaining to, or situated or dwelling on the bank of a river or other body of water.” A riparian zone then, is the zone of land between a body of water and the land.
For the full, formal definition, I’m going to cut right to Wikipedia.com. Here’s what they had to say about riparian zones, in a nutshell.
“Riparian zones are significant in ecology, environmental management, and civil engineering because of their role in soil conservation, their biodiversity, and the influence they have on aquatic ecosystems. Riparian zones occur in many forms 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.”
In my wanderings yesterday I re-discovered a riparian zone here in the park. Is it ugly? I think most eyes would find it so, yes. I personally think it’s beautiful…but I have to admit that I probably only think that because I know its worth, and I wish we had more riparian zones in the park.
You see, Toledo Bend Reservoir is a man-made lake. Water impoundment only began here in 1966; as a result, we don’t yet have the shorelines that old natural lakes have. We still have a problem with erosion in many places on the lake. That’s where riparian zones come in. They help to dramatically slow – and sometimes completely stop and/or reverse – soil erosion.
Riparian zones can be made of a variety of materials. They can be mostly biotic, or completely composed of non-biotic material (small rocks and such) or any mixture in between.
The one I spied here in the park is a good mixture of water tolerant plant life and various sizes of rock, along with some driftwood for good measure.
There’s not much else to say about riparian zones, so I’ll let the pictures be worth their fabled thousand words. I will leave you with this, though: if you see or know of riparian zones, do what you can to preserve them. Their importance in assuring the continuity of our ecosystem depends on them.