Healthy riparian land provides:
- Cultural values, especially sites of significance to Traditional Owners who have a strong connection to waterways as the lifeblood for Country. Of the 35,000 Aboriginal places and significant sites recorded on the Aboriginal Heritage Registry (at 2011), 95 per cent occur within one kilometre of a waterway or waterbody. These can include sites such as middens, scar trees and fish traps, as well as places with spiritual and ceremonial significance;
- Habitat for native flora and fauna, including rare and threatened species;
- A connection to other remnant vegetation and provides for movement of native animals and plants (known as a biolink);
- Stability for river bed and banks, minimising erosion;
- Grazing, shelter and access to water for stock;
- A filter for nutrients and sediment from catchment run-off, which improves water quality, especially upstream of drinking water supplies;
- A supply of food for fish and other in-stream organisms from organic matter entering the water;
- A supply of large wood, which forms important in-stream habitat for many native fish and invertebrates;
- Recreational opportunities, such as walking, picnicking, swimming and fishing; and
- Tourism opportunities, especially for regional areas;
- Opportunities to manage climate change and its impacts:
- Mitigate climate change by ‘soaking up’ (sequestering) carbon through revegetation; and
- Mitigate the impacts of climate change by the vegetation regulating in-stream temperatures by shading waterways and by providing habitat and enhanced connectivity for plants and animals seeking more suitable environments due to climate change impacts.
Healthy waterways depend on the condition of riparian land:
- Trees on riparian land provide a supply of organic matter to waterways, including large wood, which supports aquatic invertebrates and nutrient cycling;
- Vegetation on riparian land improves water quality in waterways. It filters out sediments, nutrients and pathogens from run-off from a range of land uses and catchment activities including agriculture, on-site domestic wastewater management and urban development. This protects public water supplies, improves water quality for fishing and recreation and helps reduce algal blooms downstream;
- Shade from riparian vegetation also helps regulate water temperature, which can be important to fish and helps reduce the likelihood of algal blooms;
- Riparian land is important for the storage of carbon; and
- Riparian vegetation helps to stabilise stream banks and reduce erosion.
Riparian vegetation helps to stabilise stream banks and reduce erosion. A study of the impact of riparian revegetation on stream erosion during floods in Victoria, showed that high quality native riparian vegetation, in near-natural waterways or established through revegetation programs such as those undertaken in Victoria over the last 10 to 20 years, reduces the occurrence and scale of flood related channel change.
This channel change has led to nearly $80 million of direct repair costs over 20 years and much larger costs to repair damaged assets such as bridges and roads. For more information, go to Impacts of riparian land on erosion.