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Riparian Forest Buffers: An Agroforestry Practice

Riparian forest buffers can provide a variety of benefits including improved water quality and enhanced wildlife habitat. This introductory Agroforestry Note provides insight into the objectives and design of riparian forest buffers. It is part of a series of Agroforestry Notes on riparian forest buffers.

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Current Info Sheet

How can agroforestry help landowners adapt to increased rain intensity?



Historically, trees and shrubs naturally occurred along most streams and rivers throughout the United States. These riparian areas were essential for providing ecosystem services, like protecting water quality. However, today's community development and intensive agriculture have removed riparian vegetation. In many watersheds, the hydrologic cycle has been significantly altered, stream channel erosion has increased, and non-point-source pollution of surface waters has become a major problem.

Agroforestry can help restore and protect water quality by filtering contaminants, reducing flooding, and improving aquatic habitat. But, Working Trees can't do all of the work. Rural and urban residents must work together to coordinate land use throughout the watershed. Strategically planned and managed, agroforestry practices can address economic, ecological, and social objectives.

Related Publications

Agroforestry Notes

  • Riparian Forest Buffers: An Agroforestry Practice, Agroforestry Note #49, Riparian Forest Buffers #1
  • Riparian Buffers For An Agricultural Land
  • How To Design A Riparian Buffer For Agricultural Land
  • Riparian Buffer Design For Cropland
  • Wastewater Management Using Hybrid Poplars
  • Waterbreaks: Trees For Managing The Floodplains
  • Biotechnical Streambank Protection: The Use Of Plants To Stabilize Streambanks
  • Planning Biotechnical Streambank Protection

Inside Agroforestry

  • Volume 19, Issue 1: Riparian Forest Buffer "Apps" For Your Smart Farm
  • Summer 2005: Water Quality
  • Spring 2000: Status Of Our Nation's Water
  • Fall 1997: Riparian Forest Buffers / Short Rotation Woody Crops
  • Fall 1993: Water Quality

Research Publications

  • A Long, Long Time Ago…

Working Trees

  • Working Trees For Water Quality

Working Trees Info Sheets

  • How can agroforestry help landowners adapt to increased rain intensity?
  • What is a riparian forest buffer?


Field Guide Inserts For Transparent Clipboards

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About Agroforestry

Agroforestry intentionally combines agriculture and forestry to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems. Agroforestry takes advantage of the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock. Agroforestry practices include:

About the NAC

The USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) had its origins in the 1990 Farm Bill. It began as a Forest Service Research and State & Private Forestry effort in 1992 and expanded into a partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 1995. It is administered by the Forest Service's, Washington, DC, Office of Research and Development. NAC offices are located in Lincoln, Nebraska.

NAC accelerates the application of agroforestry through a national network of partners. Together, we conduct research, develop technologies and tools, coordinate demonstrations and training, and provide useful information to natural resource professionals.

About Working Trees

The right trees planted in the right places for the right reasons can add value to land-use systems. That's the Working Trees message that helps natural resource professionals, community leaders, and landowners identify with the concept of agroforestry. NAC uses the Working Trees theme to promote the development of sustainable agriculture and communities.


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