Riparian areas provide important functions across their entire watershed. While riparian habitats make up only a small proportion of the land, they support many invertebrate and wildlife species with food, cover, reproductive and other life stages, and support the ability to move across the landscape. Proper functioning riparian zones help control water temperature, reduce erosion and stream sedimentation, controls flooding, and recharge ground water, which in turn recharges stream flows that support many aquatic and wildlife species during dry periods. Degraded riparian areas typically have less vegetation to protect and stabilize stream banks. This results in lowered water tables reducing summer stream flows and green zones. This in turn reduces more riparian vegetation for wildlife and livestock.
The priority issues related to riparian function identified by LPDT members are: loss of vegetation and loss of connectivity of corridors; increased invasive species such as salt cedar and perennial pepperweed; increased bank erosion and stream down cutting; increased sediments; loss or degraded adjacent wetland habitats; and reduced in-stream water flows. The selection of geographic areas to address these issues were driven in part by WGFD aquatic enhancement and/or crucial priority areas identified in their strategic habitat plan. These include areas where riparian obligate species occur where species of greatest conservation needs are located. Other criteria used to select these areas include locations where issues could be comprehensively addressed at watershed scales and where there is a strong conservation need and an interest by private landowners to be involved with conservation activities or strategic locations that would benefit from habitat leasing and conservation easements.
Priority treatments are designed to promote a diverse and healthy riparian vegetation community by planting native tree and shrubs, and reducing and controlling invasive plant species. These activities will connect important riparian areas with other important habitats and improve movement corridors.