Costs of Poor Riparian Management
The land alongside your waterways is probably the most productive on your farm, but it is also the most vulnerable to the damaging impacts of stock.
Thanks to its deeper soils and higher moisture content, riparian land often has good, green feed when the rest of the farm has dried off. Riparian areas offer more shade and shelter, and in hot weather it can be tempting to give your stock access so that they can cool off in the water.
It probably seems counter-intuitive, then, to restrict stock from your riparian land. Riparian areas are, however, easily damaged by stock that eat and trample the vegetation, destroy the soil structure, and release large amounts of dung and urine in and around the waterway.
Subsidies and other incentives are usually available to farmers to install watering systems when they agree to fence-off their riparian areas.
Some of the problems that can develop as a result of poor riparian management, and their negative impacts on farm productivity, waterway health and the community, are described below.
Destruction of riparian grasses, trees and shrubs caused by eating and trampling.
Animal welfare issues, as a result of lost shade and shelter.
Reduced biodiversity, due to loss of food and habitat.
Ecosystem loses ability to capture and recycle carbon.
Erosion, because plant roots can no longer bind the soil.
Loss of valuable land and top soil.
Banks become unstable and dangerous for stock and people.
Loose, unprotected soil is dislodged by stock trampling and wading, and enters the waterway (turbidity and sedimentation).
Drainage problems caused by sediment build up.
Aquatic life declines due to lack of oxygen and restricted passage.
Increased water temperatures, due to loss of overhanging riparian vegetation.
Proliferation of nuisance algae.
Decline in native fish and other important aquatic organisms.
Loss of recreational amenities eg fishing, swimming, kayaking.
Urine and dung produced by stock in and around the waterway pollutes the water supply.
Spread of disease and parasites that affect both stock and humans.
Water no longer fit for stock or human consumption.
Stock destroy the soil structure (pugging and compaction).
Native vegetation and grasses unable to grow.
Erosion, turbidity and sedimentation.
Riparian vegetation cannot slow the flow of water.
Erosion and sedimentation.
In heavy rain events, the risk of flood and loss of infrastructure (eg bridges, crossings), stock and human life.
Riparian vegetation cannot filter the nutrients and sediment contained in run-off.
Fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides pollute the water supply.
Turbidity and sedimentation.
The water table rises, because deep-rooted plants are not cycling rainwater.
Loss of valuable land through salinity or waterlogging.
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