Another image from along the Red Deer River, this time from downstream in Drumheller. This is one of my older images made in the late ’80’s with my Linhof 617 panorama on Fuji RFP 50 ISO film. You won’t find many trees near Drumheller, but there are always a few along the riverbanks(riparian zone) where this image was made. You would literally fall into the river if you stepped through these trees.
Riparian zones dissipate stream energy. The meandering curves of a river, combined with vegetation and root systems, dissipate stream energy, which results in less soil erosion and a reduction in flood damage. Sediment is trapped, reducing suspended solids to create less turbid water, replenish soils, and build stream banks. Pollutants are filtered from surface runoff which enhances water quality via biofiltration.
The riparian zones also provide wildlife habitat, increase biodiversity, and provide wildlife corridors, enabling aquatic and riparian organisms to move along river systems avoiding isolated communities. They can provide forage for wildlife and livestock.
They provide native landscape irrigation by extending seasonal or perennial flows of water. Nutrients from terrestrial vegetation (e.g. plant litter and insect drop) is transferred to aquatic food webs. The vegetation surrounding the stream helps to shade the water, mitigating water temperature changes. The vegetation also contributes wood debris to streams which is important to maintaining geomorphology.
From a social aspect, riparian zones contribute to nearby property values through amenity and views, and they improve enjoyment for footpaths and bikeways through supporting foreshoreway networks. Space is created for riparian sports including fishing, swimming and launching for vessels and paddlecraft.
The riparian zone acts as a sacrificial erosion buffer to absorb impacts of factors including climate change, increased runoff from urbanisation and increased boatwake without damaging structures located behind a setback zone.