A recent CRDC project with Griffith University investigated how human and natural activities impact on riparian ecosystems, and their provision of ecosystem services (like natural pest control). The project had a particular focus on determining which management strategies best promote and maintain riparian ecosystem function and services.

The key outcomes were recently published in the handbook: Managing riparian ecosystems for ecosystem services and biodiversity – a handbook for the cotton industry.

The handbook outlines the importance of riparian vegetation condition and connectivity for native fauna’s survival and its provision of ecosystem services to farmers and the environment. (Ecosystem services are things like natural pest control, erosion control and carbon sequestration and storage). 

The handbook is broken up into two parts. The first part synthesizes thecurrent understanding of riparian ecosystems, their functions, ecosystem services and the main factors influencing these. The second part of the handbook provides users with information concerning management of riparian ecosystems including guidelines for monitoring and evaluating riparian ecosystem management.

The table below, taken from the handbook, provides a good summary of the major ecological functions and related ecosystem services of riparian ecosystems as well as their key drivers. The key drivers help inform the development of management guidelines.

Ecological Functions Key ecosystem services Key Drivers
Vegetation Traits Other factors
Light and temperature control Shading, drought refuges Canopy cover, canopy height Channel width, channel orientation, ground-water influence, instream nutrient levels
Nutrient filtration Water quality regulation Buffer width, continuity, groundcover, leaf litter density, composition, below-ground microbial interactions, rooting depth Topography (slope), hydrology (depth to water table, water residence time, ground/soil water interactions), soil type
Sediment trapping Water quality regulation
Food-web subsidies Biodiversity Composition (e.g. leaf traits), temporal dynamics Flooding, water quality, nutrients
Aquatic habitat Biodiversity, fish Composition, temporal dynamics, spatial heterogeneity Hydrology, hydraulics, water quality, nutrients
Terrestrial habitat Natural pest control, pasture, timber, biodiversity, salinity mitigation, erosion control Canopy cover, composition, temporal dynamics, floral diversity, buffer width, longitudinal connectivity Hydrology, other disturbances (e.g. grazing, fire), regional climate, surrounding land cover
Carbon storage and sequestration Abundance of mature trees, tree recruitment and regrowth Soil type
Cultural values; recreation & tourism; science and education; aesthetic, spiritual &wilderness values Composition and structure  

“Maintaining and improving the condition of biodiversity in cotton landscapes is essential to maintaining the ecosystem services provided by native vegetation such as riparian zones,” CRDC’s R&D Manager Stacey Vogel said. 

“The Managing Riparian Ecosystems handbook provides an important resource that improves our understanding of riparian ecosystems function and how the factors such as management influence its function and delivery of ecosystem services to cotton communities and farms.”

The handbook can be found here.