Riparian Forest

red decommissioning slide show

This section of riparian forest along the Cedar River is dominated by deciduous trees.

Riparian areas include the land along the shorelines of streams and lakes, linking terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They provide numerous functions for maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems, such as shade to keep water temperatures lower, reducing sediment input from upland disturbance, and recruitment of large woody debris to the stream channel.

In addition to their important role in aquatic ecosystem function, riparian areas provide unique habitat features important to terrestrial species as a result of their structural diversity, species composition, and proximity to water. In the western Cascade Mountains the riparian zone is generally considered to extend about 165 feet away from the stream or lake shoreline, which is the typical height of a mature conifer tree.

Most of the riparian areas in the Cedar River Watershed are in relatively good condition compared to those in intensively managed forest lands elsewhere in the Cascade Mountains. Much of the watershed was harvested before forest practice regulations established no-cut zones along streams, but many of these areas have now developed into mid-successional conifer riparian forest.

Riparian areas where restoration treatments would help to improve riparian functions include deciduous dominated reaches where conifers have difficulty becoming established; dense, young stands of conifers; and conifer stands along larger streams, where recruitment of key pieces of large wood is deficient.


There are two major goals for riparian restoration described in the HCP, both of which are directed at restoring riparian structural and habitat diversity and associated stream/riparian ecosystem functions:

  1. Reestablish conifers in riparian and streamside areas
  2. Accelerate the growth and structural development of trees in riparian stands


What are we doing for riparian forest habitats?

Restoring riparian areas is an emerging science, especially with regard to coniferous forests west of the Cascade Mountains. We are implementing several restoration treatments to improve ecosystem functioning in riparian areas and closely tying these to aquatic restoration.

Conifer Underplanting and Release
In order to increase the abundance of conifers in riparian stands that are dominated by deciduous species, conifer seedlings are planted in these stands or deciduous trees and shrubs are thinned around existing conifer seedlings and saplings to release them from competition.
View more on our conifer underplanting and release program.

Restoration and Ecological Thinning
Restoration thinning in riparian stands is implemented to increase structural complexity and accelerate development of late-successional characteristics, including tree size.
View more on our active forest habitat restoration program.

Strategic Planning for Restoring Riparian and Aquatic Habitats
Restoration in riparian areas is coordinated with aquatic restoration to improve both short and long-term functioning of aquatic ecosystems.
View more about our strategic planning.