Habitat Management ,Principle 7: Maintain healthy riparian zones for production and biodiversity
Riparian areas are the arteries of the landscape, providing essential connectivity between other habitats, as well as vital refuge in times of drought. The riparian zone also provides an important buffer between agricultural activity and the waterway, helping to maintain water quality and protect aquatic habitats.
Riparian areas in cotton country are subject to a range of pressures, including grazing, traffic movement, chemical drift, weed invasion and infrastructure installations (e.g. pumps). They are often very narrow as a result of the need to maximise production returns on the adjacent high-value floodplain farming land. Any measure that can be taken to reduce these pressures will not only benefit the birds of the riparian area, but improve whole-farm ecology and downstream impacts (e.g. water quality).
Management of stock pressure by strategic fencing and provision of off-stream watering points is probably the most common and effective riparian management action. This promotes healthier ground cover, thereby reducing sedimentation of the stream and providing good cover and food sources for ground-dwelling birds. It also allows natural regeneration of canopy trees and understorey species, thus enhancing the sustainability of the tree population and enhancing habitat quality for understorey birds.
Many farmers are now also maintaining a wider riparian area, or at least a buffer of grassland between crop paddocks and the riparian zone. This dramatically improves the chemical and nutrient run-off filtration function of the riparian zone. It also benefits the production system by providing a significant grazing reserve and a harbour for beneficial insects in the non-growing season. The wide buffer further reduces the risk of damage to in-stream and riparian habitat from weed invasion, traffic movement and chemical drift.
- Maintain and improve riparian habitat quality
- Enlarge riparian buffer zones
- Maintain and improve in-stream habitat
- Fence off riparian areas to control stock access
- Allow understorey shrubs and young trees to regrow
- Reduce or prevent traffic access in the riparian zone
- Leave a grassy buffer zone between the paddock and riparian area
- Widen riparian area by allowing natural; regeneration of trees and shrubs in buffer zone
- Retain or replace natural snags in the stream
- Maintain and re-establish riparian trees to shade the stream