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The utility of spatial data to delineate river riparian functions and management zones: A review

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number143982
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>25/02/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Science of the Total Environment
Number of pages14
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date2/12/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Riparian zones of rivers are transitional environments between land and water ecosystems with distinct hydrological gradients, soils and habitats strongly related to their functioning. When these functions are intact, they integrate multi-directional processes across the land-river channel (e.g. canopy shade effects on the stream, flood inundation effects on the land) with mutual beneficial effects. In many managed landscapes these functions have been degraded. To restore them, considerable efforts have been directed over the last 20 years to understand and place effective riparian ‘buffer’ zones, particularly to enhance water quality and biodiversity. Since water quality targets are not easily met by current practices in many managed landscapes (as additive pressures increase), catchment managers will have to increasingly restore riparian functions to enhance aquatic ecosystem resilience to land and climate change. Targeting effective restoration within site-specific contexts requires availability of spatial data, in combinations that inform on individual and multiple functions. There are accelerating developments with spatial data, arising from increased spatial resolution of key underlying datasets, availability of soil and landcover data and increasing secondary derived attributes. Hence, a review is timely into the best practices in the use of these data for delineating riparian functions and management zones for rivers. Our review evaluates the application of spatial data and is structured around three conceptual methods of riparian delineation; fixed width, variable width by river corridor features and variable width by context of local pressures or required outcomes. We explore process representation and incorporation into management across main riparian functions (hydrological connectivity, water quality, shading, resource transfers and habitat provision). Translating spatial data into functions informs the ability to go beyond contemporary, generally fixed width approaches using basic structural components towards planning to better target functional attributes to optimise ecosystem protection. © 2020 Elsevier B.V.