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A scheme for evaluating the effectiveness of riparian zones in reducing overland flow to streams

N. F. Herron and P. B. Hairsine

Australian Journal of Soil Research 36(4) 683 - 698
Published: 1998


Two time-independent equations are developed to assess the effectiveness of riparian zones in reducing overland flow to streams for events in which the time-scale of subsurface water redistribution exceeds that of the rainfall event. In one equation, the effectiveness of the riparian area is limited by the storage capacity of its soils, while in the other equation, the infiltration rate determines the buffer’s effectiveness. Riparian zone widths, expressed as a proportion of total hillslope length, are calculated for a number of different climate, antecedent moisture, and management scenarios for hillslopes of varying topographic convergence. A riparian zone width not exceeding 20% of total hillslope length is proposed as a practical management option in this paper. Riparian zone widths that fall within these bounds are predicted for areas where both the hillslopes and riparian areas are in good condition. Where conditions in either area are degraded, disproportionately large riparian buffer widths are predicted. The results suggest that land management initiatives need to be directed at the catchment as a whole if riparian buffers of realistic widths are to be effective.

Keywords: riparian zone, hydrology, infiltration, storage capacity, land management.

© CSIRO 1998

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