Julienne Isaacs: The Benefits and Limits of Buffers

Manitoba Co-operator:

Sandi Riemersma, an environmental biologist with Palliser Environmental Services, says the effectiveness of buffers depends on several factors, including the slope of land, soil characteristics, buffer width, vegetation, season and management.

“A riparian buffer strip is a good tool to reduce sediment transport and often can reduce particulate phosphorus mobility,” she says. “But buffers are not effective in winter and early spring when vegetation is dormant, soils are frozen and microbial activity is low or absent,” she says.

Riemersma emphasizes nutrient application management as an essential aspect of protecting waterways from nutrient run-off. In addition, she says permanent cover should be maintained near waterways, steep slopes and on erodible and saline soils. “Riparian buffers help to maintain stable stream banks, thereby reducing soil erosion and associated sediment and nutrient transport in waterways,” she says.