Stylised image of native fish in a stream with riparian vegetation on fenced bank
When in good condition, riparian land provides a range of important values and functions

Cultural heritage

Traditional Owners have a strong connection to waterways as the lifeblood for Country and culture. Ninety-five per cent of Aboriginal places occur within one kilometre of a waterway. These can include sites such as middens, scar trees and fish traps, as well as places with spiritual and ceremonial significance. For Aboriginal people, these places were important food sources and life revolved around access to water.

Photo, right: many cultural heritage sites occur near waterways. Scar tree on the Campaspe River, Barnadown, Dja Dja Wurrung Country. Photo courtesy North Central CMA.

Close up of a scar tree with river in the background, kayaks paddling on river

Healthy habitat

Riparian land provides critical habitat for native plants and animals, including threatened species. The vegetation along rivers and streams provides a connection for native plants and animals to move between patches of remnant vegetation in the landscape.

Trees on riparian land provide a supply of organic matter to waterways, providing food and habitat for fish and other aquatic animals. Shade from riparian vegetation also helps regulate water temperature, which can be important to fish and helps reduce the likelihood of algal blooms.

The plants on riparian land play an instrumental role in protecting water quality by filtering nutrients and sediment out of run-off entering waterways. Good coverage of vegetation also reduces soil erosion and flood damage by stabilising the river bed and banks.

Dense vegetation with stream running through the middle

Photo, above: healthy riparian land has many environmental and community benefits. Gellibrand River, South West Victoria. Photo courtesy Glenelg Hopkins CMA


Riparian land can provide grazing, shelter and access to water for livestock.


Waterways are important sites for recreation, such as walking, picnicking, swimming and fishing, and tourism opportunities, especially for regional areas.

By managing riparian land well, there are opportunities to manage climate change and its impacts. Riparian vegetation helps mitigate climate change by ‘soaking up’ (sequestering) carbon. It also helps manage the impacts of climate change by regulating in-stream temperatures by shading waterways, and by providing habitat and connectivity for plants and animals seeking more suitable environments due to climate change impacts.

Photo, right: riparian land provides many opportunities for recreation. Fishing on Gunbower Creek. Photo courtesy Jon Leevers, DELWP

Man standing on bank of river, fishing with a fishing rod


There are several threats to the condition of riparian land and the values and functions it provides. These include:

  • uncontrolled stock access
  • pressure from recreational activities
  • weeds (especially willows)

These threats are explained further at How is riparian land managed?.

Page last updated: 30/01/19