Riparian Buffers

One of the priorities of the Duxbury Land Trust is to focus land conservation efforts on non-fragmented land cover types, primarily forested lands.  The purpose is twofold: to foster the general ecological health of the forests and to allow for the unrestricted movement of wildlife through forested corridors.  Our efforts are directed both to ridgeline, upland forests and to riparian and lowland forests.

Mossy streamThe naturally forested lands along our streams, rivers and wetlands serve as “riparian buffers.”  These undisturbed areas buffer adverse impacts to aquatic habitats from developed or managed land, such as roads, residential subdivisions, and agricultural operations.  Soils from agricultural and residential areas contain more nutrients than those of forested lands due to the fertilizers that are used on farms and lawns.  Forested riparian areas can filter runoff from upland areas, trapping eroded soils and their associated nutrients, which can harm water quality.  Forested riparian buffers also can stabilize stream and riverbanks, preventing excessive erosion and loss of valuable agricultural land.  Naturally vegetated riparian areas shade streams to protect cold water fish habitat, as well as provide organic matter.   The organic matter serves as the basis of the food chain in cold, low nutrient mountain streams such as those found in Duxbury.

When forested riparian areas are large or wide enough, they provide essential travel corridors for wildlife. Wildlife that regularly use these corridors include mammals such as otter and mink, moose and bobcats, as well as birds of prey.  Eagles, ospreys, hawks, herons, and owls frequent the remnant floodplain forests along the Winooski River, using the trees as hunting perches and potential nesting sites.

Landowners can play a significant role in maintaining or replacing buffers along our valuable waterways.  Leaving an undisturbed strip of vegetation at least 50 feet in width will provide necessary shade for aquatic life to thrive, protect water quality from runoff, and stabilize streambanks.  Simply leaving a naturally occurring vegetative cover is an easy and cost-effective way for a landowner to do his or her part to protect Duxbury’s natural resources.  For landowners who want to re-create, enhance, or expand riparian buffers, native trees and shrubs can be transplanted from other parts of the property or are readily available from several local nurseries specializing in native plants.