A review of landscape influences on riparian zone processes in mountainous headwater catchments

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Understanding the drivers of riparian zone hydrology is crucial for informed management of water quality, especially in headwater catchments. This study reviews landscape influences on riparian zone processes in mountainous headwater catchments, and combines recent findings and management techniques into a conceptual analysis of riparian zone hydrology and nutrient export. A case study synthesizing recently published work in Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest (TCEF) is developed outlining riparian zone hydrology, riparian buffering, and nutrient export. We demonstrate that a major influence on the hydrology and nutrient export in mountainous catchments can be landscape structure, and use this finding as a framework to develop a conceptual approach to riparian zones in mountainous areas. The conceptual analysis is intended to inform management through the identification of riparian areas that are important for stream water quality depending on hydrologic drivers in the catchment. Understanding the variability of riparian zone hydrology and subsequent water quality impacts will allow for more focused and informed management decisions for riparian areas.




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