Riparian ecosystems and their streams are critically important locations for sustaining a healthy balance of nutrients—primarily carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)—across watersheds and far downstream. Vegetated riparian areas can be efficient natural filters—storing, removing and “fixing” potentially harmful excess nutrients that flow into aquatic ecosystems from uplands dominated by human activities such as agriculture and urbanization.
To assist Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, EPA scientists provided state-of-the-science information on nutrients and riparian ecosystems as a chapter in an upcoming guidance manual designed for states, tribes and commercial interests responsible for managing riparian zones. The chapter provides a basic understanding of nutrient (C, N and P) cycling in riparian zones, including stream channels and Pacific Northwest groundwater. It highlights the well-studied effects of various land uses which suggest that hydrologic connection, vegetation type, soil condition and salmon use of streams are some of the key factors state officials need to consider for maintaining conditions needed for optimal nutrient transport.
“EPA’s willingness to co-author the nutrient chapter of Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife’s riparian science synthesis document was critical to providing the best science to biologists, managers and policy makers throughout Washington. We viewed EPA as an essential partner that provided a very high level of expertise that WDFW simply did not have,” said Dr. Timothy Quinn, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Chief Scientist.