Riparian Zone Definition
Riparian zone refers to all alluvial and floodplain soils as identified by the valley bottom flatness algorithm (MrVBF) . This inclusive definition of riparian zone is used because processes within this zone impact directly on the erosion/sediment transport processes.
Within this riparian zone vegetation is divided into riparian vegetation (adjacent to the stream channel) and floodplain vegetation (on the floodplain/alluvial soils but not adjacent to the stream channel).
One of the defining features of riparian vegetation (particularly in water limited environments) is that the formation of a denser canopy (higher leaf area, more trees per hectare) than the surrounding landscape. For instance if the surrounding landscape is dominated by the structural class woodland then the riparian zone is likely to contain open forest and possibly pockets of closed forest in areas of higher water availability. If the surrounding landscape is dominated by open woodland then the riparian zone is likely to contain woodland with scattered stands of open forest. So if we consider the dominant structural class encountered in a catchment to be sc then the predominant riparian vegetation is sc+ and the structural class encountered near permanent waterbodies is sc+2. This approach allows the riparian zone in a desert upland subcatchment to be compared with one in a wetter part of the catchment.
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