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A Functional Approach to Riparian Area Delineation Using Geospatial Methods

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Riparian areas are diverse ecotones that provide numerous, valuable ecosystem functions. However, many riparian delineation methods use a fixed minimum width to create a riparian buffer or setback that may not adequately protect actual riparian function. A method for riparian area delineation across landscapes is presented that incorporates riparian function and moves beyond the fixed-width buffer approach. Using geospatial data and tools, riparian areas were delineated functionally for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeastern Ohio and compared to fixed-width buffers in terms of extent and protection of riparian function. We suggest that functional riparian area delineation be incorporated into watershed management planning to improve protection and restoration of the valuable ecological functions provided by riparian areas across landscapes.

Keywords: GIS; delineation; riparian; watershed management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

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