Journal Articles

Relationship between riparian buffers and terrestrial wildlife in the eastern United States

December 29, 2021

Journal of Forestry fvab067

Angela L Larsen-Gray and Craig Loehle

When working forest stands are harvested, vegetated strips along streams are often retained as part of forestry best management practices (BMPs) to protect water quality. These riparian buffers, known as streamside management zones, when following forestry BMP recommendations, also likely provide benefits to various terrestrial wildlife species. To better understand the role of riparian buffers in contributing to biological diversity in working forest landscapes, we reviewed literature (n = 30) that reported on herpetofauna, bird, and mammal responses to riparian buffers in the eastern United States. Although few results were consistent among taxa, community composition commonly varied among riparian buffer widths. Narrower riparian buffers more commonly supported edge and disturbance-associated species whereas wider riparian buffers tended to support interior-associated species. We did not find a consistent width that supported all terrestrial wildlife species studied.

Study Implications: Based on our findings, it may be most efficacious to use varying riparian buffer widths across a landscape to provide structural conditions for a diversity of wildlife species. Some interior species may be best conserved on older managed stands or other retained areas in the landscape rather than riparian buffers. Landscape context and functionality of riparian buffers as movement corridors need to be further investigated, as this is an assumed but not quantified indirect benefit for various terrestrial wildlife species and perhaps especially important for species with low vagility or low dispersal ability that require older forest or riparian areas.

riparian buffer, terrestrial wildlife, conservation, streamside management zones, forestry best management practices