Riparian Forest Buffers

(Thad Rhodes) Riparian Forest Buffers are just a fancy term that basically describes a combination of trees, shrubs and usually native grasses along some type of a stream. There are lots of reasons to have them along these riparian or streamside corridors. When you look at that property it depends on if there’s any existing trees right beside that the stream itself or not. If there’s not, it’s usually a good opportunity to go in and start your planting adjacent to the existing stream bank and then plant out towards that. A typical buffer design has the faster-growing trees right along the stream and then you transition out into some maybe longer term more valuable commercial species like your oaks and walnuts to have then a shrub component on the outside of that to try to transition it into an open area such as a crop field that adds extra benefit for wildlife as well. Then to have a grass corridor between the trees in the crop fields so the landowners are not fighting against tree branches in the future. It makes it kind of a nice transition. A grass also helps increase the filtering capacity of the buffer too. The two most common claimed are for water quality and water quantity benefits. Especially associated with a reservoir like Tuttle Creek. The sedimentation issue has been an increasing issue since its inception. Reaching its conservation pool in the early 1960s up till now, the sedimentation is increased toward the capacity of the reservoir has lost about 40%. Trees, especially along stream sides, can help increase that by helping stabilize the stream banks, the sediment along the banks. From the standpoint of sedimentation and how Riparian Forest Buffers can help to illustrate a little bit of importance of the sedimentation issue. You can see here at Tuttle Creek Reservoir. This is the Fancy Creek State Park area. You can see over time how much sedimentation has accumulated in here. When the reservoir was built this was one of the park areas that was to be utilized for camping and now it’s just not as accessible because of the sedimentation that has accumulated course. This is where a Fancy Creek and the Blue River come in from the north. As the water starts to slow down a lot of that sediment as that’s suspended in the water is dropped out and accumulates here. You see more evidently the issues that we are and will be dealing with. The reservoir actually has the upper watershed boundary or drainage areas up into Nebraska. There’s just shy of 10,000 square miles with about three-quarters of that in Nebraska. When it gets into Kansas, there’s about 1.5 million acres of drainage area. Some of the research that I’ve seen specifically to Kansas says that about 170 different sites along the rivers have been identified to contribute to over 500,000 tons of sediment annually to the reservoir. Trying to stabilize those streams are very important. I think this is an important issue not only in Kansas but nationally. The sedimentation is a natural process of hydrological ecosystem. But in some instances such as this with failing stream banks, with increased erosion, it can be sped up. This is something not only at Tuttle Creek Reservoir that you can issues with, but also in another areas.

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