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Riparian Areas of South Dakota

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

Riparian Areas, Uplands and Associated Watersheds


"Riparian area" describes the unique plant and animal community found immediately adjacent to water (streams, springs, rivers, ponds and lakes). A riparian area is identified by vegetation that requires water in amounts greater than that which falls as precipitation. Wetland habitat includes riparian areas and associated aquatic habitat such as streams, shallow ponds and wet meadows.

JPG-Line drawing of various riparian habitats.

A watershed is the land area serving as a collecting basin for snowmelt and rainfall. It provides water flow for streams and rivers. Watersheds are separated from one another by topographical features such as ridges or mountains. A watershed functions to catch and store precipitation, slowly releasing this water into the stream channel throughout the year. Healthy watershed vegetation influences the timing, quality and quantity of water release, thereby affecting the condition of riparian areas.

Management of Riparian Areas and Their Uplands

JPG-Photo of cropland and riparian areas.
JPG-Photo of cropland and riparian areas.
JPG-Photo of cropland and riparian areas.
Watersheds are comprised of many inter-connected upland and lowland (riparian) parts. It is important to realize that these parts function together as an ecological unit. Deterioration of one part has a negative impact on other parts of the system.

Land use Impacts Riparian Areas
There are many different land uses in a watershed, such as, cropland, grazing land, recreation land, farmsteads and towns or cities. In South Dakota, the major land uses that impact the riparian zones are cropland, grazing land and urban lands. All land must be managed to keep our resources healthy and vibrant.

Cropland Management
Cropland occurs in the upland portion of the watershed and produces the food and fiber we need to exist. Runoff must be managed to minimize soil erosion and ensure that nutrients or pesticides applied for weed control and crop production do not enter the streamflow.

Grazing Management
The best and most productive management of livestock grazing in riparian areas requires the understanding that:

Key factors to Consider

Opportunities for Success

JPG-Fenceline photos of riparian areas.By putting the principles of good grass management into practice you can achieve a number of benefits from riparian areas.

If You
Protect vegetation during vulnerable stages

You Get
Productive vegetation

Protective vegetation during high flows

JPG-Line drawing of healthy floodplains.

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