Riparian areas are defined as anything related to or located on a bank of a natural watercourse, such as a stream or river. Riparian areas are important to the health of any waterway, and that's why the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) began their "Trees For Tribs" program.
This spring, the DEC, along with the Oatka Creek Watershed Committee, planted more than a thousand trees and shrubs along Oatka Creek in Genesee County.
"Trees and shrubs act as Mother Nature's filters and also help to regenerate ground water," explains Garrett Koplun, a NY DEC Forester. "Without them, there's going to be a lot more runoff, a lot more erosion, a lot more introduction of pollutants coming from our fields and roadways that would otherwise be free to flow into our water. So we'd have sediment problems. We'd have pollutant problems downstream, along the stream. It would affect the habitat for our wildlife, and it would affect our drinking water. It would affect commerce and boating on our waterways."
Riparian areas are critical to insect life, which in turn contribute to the health of the streams they border. Mammals also rely on riparian areas.
"These corridors provide a means for getting from one place to another without getting run over on a road, and a lot of the food for those animals I mentioned come from the stream itself. So, there's a lot of interconnections between the stream and the riparian area that surrounds it, the terrestrial part, the land part," said Peter Lent, Chair of the Oatka Creek Watershed Committee, whose group worked hand in hand with the DEC on this project.
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