Good Forestry in the Granite State:
Recommended Voluntary Forest Management Practices for New Hampshire
Table of Contents >>  4.2 Wetlands << 4.3 Forest Management in Riparian Areas >> 4.4 Stream Crossings and Habitat

4.3 FOREST MANAGEMENT IN RIPARIAN AREAS

BACKGROUND

Riparian areas should be managed to protect water quality, streamflows, fish and wildlife habitat, and scenic values.

A riparian area is land adjacent to and directly influenced by streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and associated nonforested wetlands. It forms a transition from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems. Soils and growing conditions are often moister, more nutrient-rich, and more productive than those in surrounding uplands, resulting in considerable species diversity and productivity. Because of their proximity to surface waters, riparian areas are vital for maintaining water quality and aquatic resources.

Riparian areas have a long history of use and alteration by humans, including urbanization, road-building, agriculture, dam-building, and timber harvesting. The combined pressures of these activities, along with the documented ecological significance of these areas, underscore the importance of properly managing the riparian forest.

The Functions and Values of Riparian Areas

Riparian areas provide many ecosystem services and benefits such as:

Identifying Riparian Areas and Designing Riparian Management Zones

Riparian areas are defined by their location adjacent to lakes, ponds, streams and rivers, by their characteristic vegetation, and by the function they serve. Vegetation can vary from a narrow band of shrubs to floodplain forests hundreds of yards wide. The size depends on what function is being considered and may include upland forest as well as truly riparian communities.

Riparian management zones (RMZs) are linear zones along the shores of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and associated wetlands, within which special forest management practices are used.

Just how wide should the RMZ be? Unique combinations of ecological functions, physical characteristics, and landscape context make it difficult to arrive at a one-size-fits-all width. An important first step is to identify what you wish to protect—the width needed to provide shade to a stream, for example, may be one tree height or less, whereas riparian wildlife habitat may extend several hundred feet into upland forests adjacent to a river or lake. Foresters and landowners are in the best position to consider and apply localized factors.

Variable, tailor-made RMZs reflect localized site conditions, but are generally more complicated to consistently define, apply, and monitor. Fixed-width RMZs have the practical benefit of being clear, consistent, relatively simple to apply and monitor, and provide reasonable confidence that RMZ values and goals will be attained. We suggest a tiered approach that provides the practical benefits of a fixed-width, but includes key modifiers offering some added benefits of a variable-width approach. For additional information about establishing RMZs, see chapter 2 in Riparian Management in Forests of the Continental Eastern United States.

We recommend the following widths as general guidelines. The RMZ extends upland from the top of the streambank or from the upland edge of any stream-, pond-, or lake-side wetland (see illustration).

Table 1. Guidelines for Riparian Management Zones

Legally Required1

Recommended

Riparian Management
Zone (feet)

No
Harvest
Zone2
(feet)

Riparian Management
Zone (feet)

No Harvest
Zone2
(feet)

Intermittent streams

none1

none

75

None

1st and 2nd order streams

501

none

100

25

3rd order streams5

501

none

3004

503

4th order and larger streams5

1501

none

3004

25

Pond <10 acres

501

none

100

None

Lake or Great Pond (>10 acres)

1501

none

300

25

1 Width required under RSA 227-J:9 (basal area law). Within a 12-month period, no more than 50 percent of the basal area may be cut in these areas. Includes ponds less than 10 acres associated with a stream or brook that flows throughout the year.

2 Portion directly adjacent to the water body in which no cutting is recommended. It may be desirable to expand if there are steep slopes (>25%), unstable soils, sensitive wetlands, or exemplary natural communities. Increasing the width of the no-harvest zone will provide greater protection of nontimber values, but will also encumber a larger amount of timber. There may be valid ecological and silvicultural reasons to harvest in the no-harvest zone.

3 A 50-foot, no-harvest zone is recommended for 3rd order streams because of the importance of large woody material on streams of this size.

4 RMZ width on 3rd & 4th order and larger streams and rivers may expand to encompass known wildlife travel corridors, drinking water supply considerations, and the full extent of the 100-year floodplain.

5 For a list of fourth-order and higher streams see N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services Consolidated List of Waterbodies Subject to RSA 483-B.

 

OBJECTIVE

Maintain the important ecological functions and values of forested riparian areas.

CONSIDERATIONS

RECOMMENDED PRACTICES

CROSS REFERENCES

2.2 Forest Structure; 2.3 Regeneration Methods; 3.5 Soil Productivity; 4.1 Water Quality; 4.2 Wetlands; 4.4 Stream Crossings and Habitat; 5.2 Invasive Plants; 6.8 Beaver-Created Openings; 6.9 Deer Wintering Areas; 6.10 Woodland Raptor Nest Sites; 6.11 Bald Eagle Winter Roosts; 6.12 Heron Colonies; 6.13 Wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need; 7.1 Natural Communities and Protected Plants; 7.3 Vernal Pools.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Chase, V., L. Deming, and F. Latawiec. 1995. Buffers for Wetlands and Surface Waters: A Guidebook for New Hampshire Municipalities. Audubon Society of New Hampshire, Concord, N.H. 80 p.

Leak, W.B., and C.H. Tubbs.1983. Percent crown cover tables for applying in the shelterwood system in New England. USDA For. Serv. Res. Note. NE-313. 4 p.

N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services. 2010. DES Consolidated List of Waterbodies Subject to RSA 483-B, the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act. http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wetlands/cspa/documents/consolidated_list.pdf Accessed February 8, 2010.

RSA 227-J. Timber Harvesting. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/xix-a/227-j/227-j-mrg.htm Accessed May 27, 2010.

RSA 482-A. Fill and Dredge in Wetlands. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/l/482-a/482-a-mrg.htm Accessed May 27, 2010.

RSA 483-B. Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/l/483-b/483-b-mrg.htm Accessed May 27, 2010.

Verry, E.S., J.W. Hornbeck, and C.A. Dolloff (eds.). 2000. Riparian Management in Forests of the Continental Eastern United States. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, Fla.

4.2 Wetlands << 4.3 Forest Management in Riparian Areas >> 4.4 Stream Crossings and Habitat

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