Riparian Tree Plantings
There are so many benefits to planting trees, and the more trees our communities have, the better. This is equally true regarding trees planted in vegetated areas alongside streams, rivers and other waterways. These areas are called riparian zones or buffers. Native trees and other vegetation planted in these areas play a key role in improving water quality. With the help of partners and volunteers, we’ve helped restore waterways by planting more than 40,000 riparian trees along waterways since 2001.
Riparian buffers filter pollutants before they enter waterways, help to stabilize eroding stream banks, and provide many other benefits to aquatic ecosystems. These water pollutants most often come from stormwater runoff from roads, roofs and parking lots, or runoff from over-fertilized lawns, pesticides, herbicides, over-grazed pastures and livestock waste, to name a few.
Tree plantings in riparian areas make a direct impact on reducing nitrogen and sediment levels in our rivers, creeks and streams. Trees increase the infiltration capacity of soils. As a result, trees slow the flow of surface water, absorb water into the ground, filter sediment and allow any remaining sediment to settle. The cleaner our region’s waterways are, the cleaner our drinking water sources become, too.
Trees are also effective in absorbing excess nitrogen from waterways. A study of 16 streams in Eastern Pennsylvania found 200-800 times more nitrogen reached streams in non-forested areas than those in forested areas.
Our watershed conservation staff regularly undertakes riparian restoration projects. Read more about other watershed restoration and conservation methods or volunteer for an upcoming planting.