Buffer strips on river banks are good!

The Environment Agency and Forestry Commission have published a report about riparian buffer zones, which are strips of uncultivated land on the river-bank, ideally 10m-20m wide covered with deciduous trees and shrubs. 
The report is detailed and, in places, quite technical but the take home message is as clear as ever – buffer zones are good for rivers and for wildlife. They help reduce flooding, reduce diffuse pollution, capture sediment and carbon and keep rivers cool by providing shade. 

The video below is a simple but graphic demonstration of the effect of buffer strips. 

The EA /FC report considers how we can improve the effectiveness of riparian buffer zones to help tackle agricultural pollution. The project assesses the effectiveness of traditional grass buffer strips and suggests ways that buffers can deliver more for the environment.

The study shows that more careful vegetation management, including tree planting and additional engineered’ design features such as incorporating ridges, swales, and mini-wetlands, can capture and retain diffuse agricultural pollutants most effectively. Three-dimensional buffer zones (those that intercept pollution below ground, as runoff travels over the soil surface and then above ground in the vegetation canopy) maximise multiple environmental, farm business and public goods outcomes.

Meon wooded banks
Trees, shrubs and herbaceous vegetation on the banks of the River Meon in Hampshire