Riparian buffer restorations are used as management tools to produce favorable water quality impacts, moreover the basis for riparian buffers as an instrument of water quality restoration rests on a relatively firm foundation. Two broad areas of research are indicated. First, data are needed to document the relative effectiveness of riparian buffers that differ according to width, length, and plant species composition. These questions, of managing buffer dimension and species composition for functionality, are of central importance even when attenuation of nutrient and sediment loads alone are considered. Second, where ecosystem restoration is the goal, effects to in-stream and terrestrial riparian biota need to be considered. Relatedly, the effects of the restoration on the landscape need to be considered. Particularly, at what rate do the effects of the riparian buffer on in-stream water quality, biota, and habitat diminish downstream from restored sites. USEPA-NRML has initiated a research project that wil document the potential for buffers to restore riparian ecosystems; focusing on water quality effects but also, importantly, documeting effects on biota.
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