Preferences for Riparian Buffers


Intensive management of riparian zones in the Mid-western United States has long involved clearing vegetation, straightening meandering streams, and lining earthen banks with stone or concrete. Recently, however, scholars have begun to document the ecological costs of such practices. Replacing barren stream edges with more natural alternatives such as vegetated buffers can improve the visual appeal, environmental services, and ecological health of these ecosystems. Despite their potential benefits, these alternatives are rarely employed. Is it because individual landowners dislike these management strategies or is it that professional planners disapprove of such options? This paper examines the approval of various riparian buffer types by landowners and planners in Illinois using a photo-questionnaire. Participants rated their preferences for tree buffers, grass buffers, and a ‘no buffer’ condition along waterways in rural and suburban landscapes. They also rated their preferences for meandering streams in rural areas and earthen banks in the suburbs. The results show substantial support for tree buffers by both residents and planners. Participants also demonstrated considerable approval for meandering streams in rural areas. These findings add to the growing body of literature on preferences for buffers in different landscape settings and provide ample evidence for planners and policy-makers to take necessary steps to preserve or restore vegetated riparian buffers and meandering channels along Mid-western waterways. These natural alternatives to existing strategies are not only visually attractive and ecologically beneficial, they are also positive steps towards more sustainable riparian management practices.



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Landscape and Urban Planning


Environmental Studies

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