The air has that unmistakable crisp chill and leaves are starting to fall from the trees. October is here again, but this year, the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council has turned it into a month for building awareness about riparian buffers.

What are riparian buffers and why should they get their own month? We’re so glad you asked. Riparian buffers are trees that border waterways, from small streams to mighty rivers. Trees in general do a lot of amazing things – filter pollutants from our water and air, reduce heat island effects, provide flood protection, increase real estate values, improve students’ academic performance, and reduce mental fatigue and aggression (for more information, check out Capitalizing on the Benefits of Trees, an educational module Green Fin Studio made for local government officials). 

When trees border a waterway, their filtering capacity becomes especially important; they are able to slow the flow of water and prevent pollutants, like excess nutrients, bacteria, and sediment, from entering the waterway that they flank. They become riparian knights standing guard against harmful runoff. This benefits the creatures that live in the stream (like fish and frogs), as well as animals that don’t live in the water, but rely on the stream for water or food (like ducks). The trees themselves also offer great habitat for animals like birds and deer. In addition, the trees’ vast root system stabilizes the sediment and prevents the stream bank from eroding. 

Would you believe that we’ve only scratched the surface of what riparian buffers do for the environment and humans? Green Fin Studio worked with the Upper & Middle James Riparian Consortium to create a graphic summarizing several of the benefits of riparian buffers. 

This graphic is one piece of a larger effort to engage more stakeholders around the issue of riparian buffers, with the ultimate goal of getting more trees in the ground. The more trees we have lining our streams, the cleaner our water will be. 

This fall, while you take in the beauty of the changing leaves, make sure to thank the trees for all that they do for you, your community, and the environment – and share your #bufferbanter with others to raise awareness about the wonders of riparian buffers!