USDA Forest Service Uses ArcGIS to Protect Riparian Ecosystems

Riparian ecosystems provide many physical, ecological, and biological functions of economic and social value, serving as the zone of interaction between streams and the terrestrial ecosystems around them. It is common to use a fixed width buffer to delineate riparian zones, but this fails to account for the complex geomorphology that governs floodplains and riparian vegetation. In order to better inventory and conserve the riparian areas within our national forests, the USDA Forest Service utilizes a GIS toolbox developed by Dr. Abood (Forest Service) and Dr. Maclean (Michigan Technological University) for delineating variable-width riparian areas. This approach recognizes the dynamic and transitional nature of riparian ecotones using hydrologic, geomorphic, and vegetation datasets as inputs into the delineation process.

RBDM v3.1 is an ArcGIS for Desktop toolbox that efficiently delineates variable-width riparian areas. The model is independent of landform and also accounts for river/stream watercourse and its associated floodplain in the delineation process. Optional datasets provide extended riparian mapping capability based on wetlands, riparian soils, and land cover attributes.

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