A new Stanford University-led study(link is external) in Costa Rica reveals that restoring relatively narrow strips of riverfront forests could substantially improve regional water quality and carbon storage.
A new Stanford University-led study(link is external) in Costa Rica reveals that restoring relatively narrow strips of riverfront forests could substantially improve regional water quality and carbon storage. The analysis, available online and set to be published in the October issue of Ecosystem Services, shows that such buffers tend to be most beneficial in steep, erosion-prone, and intensively fertilized landscapes – a finding that could inform similar efforts in other countries.
“Forests around rivers are key places to target for restoration because they provide huge benefits with very little impediment to productive land,” said study lead author Kelley Langhans, a PhD student in biology at Stanford University affiliated with the Natural Capital Project. “A small investment could have a really big impact on the health of people and ecosystems.”
Vegetated areas adjacent to rivers and streams absorb harmful pollutants in runoff, keeping them out of waterways. Creating effective policies to safeguard these riparian buffers and prioritizing where to implement them is a challenge in part because of a lack of data quantifying the impact of restoring such areas. The researchers, in partnership with officials from Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy, Central Bank and PRIAS Laboratory, analyzed one such policy – Costa Rica’s Forest Law 7575. Passed in 1996 and unevenly enforced since then, the law mandates protection of forested riverfront strips 10 meters (about 33 feet) to 50 meters (about 164 feet) wide.
Read More at: Stanford University
Costa Rican naturalist and Stanford research collaborator Dunia Villalobos examines a river in Las Cruces, Costa Rica. (Photo Credit: Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer)