USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Riparian Areas of South Dakota

JPG-Picture of a fish that may inhabit a riparian area

Stream Banks - Riparian Foundations


Building a Riparian Area

When stream banks are resistant to the powers of waterflow, the channel tends to be narrow and deep. That becomes the foundation of a stable riparian area.
JPG-Two pictures regarding building a riparian area. JPG-Two more pictures regarding building a riparian area.

Stream Horsepower

Streams and rivers flowing through riparian areas have three common elements:
  • the water in their channels has mass (or weight).
  • the mass of water is dragged downhill under the influence of gravity.
  • the water flows at some speed (or velocity).
JPG-Stream horsepower photo of stream winding through the woods.

JPG-Plateau-like erosion with stream A simple doubling of the speed of a stream's flow allows it to erode four times as much and to carry 64 times the amount of material. That's power!

Vegetation - The Roots of the Solution

JPG-Photo of a stream bend Streams and riparian areas are "glued" together by a diversity of plants with strong root systems.

Streamside vegetation reduces the horsepower of a stream, slowing water down through friction. A two-inch deep rootmat resists erosion up to 20,000 times better than bare soil streambanks.

As the percentage of roots in stream banks increases, erosion decreases.

JPG-Photo of stream through vegetative area

Previous Section -- Riparian Function - Water In the Bank
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Riparian Areas, Uplands and Associated Watersheds

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/habitat/ripsd/ripfound.htm
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Saturday, 02-Feb-2013 04:56:23 EST
Reston, VA [vaww54]