Riparian Zone Health Assessment

What is a riparian zone?

Riparian zones are vegetated areas along both sides of a river or stream that consist of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and grasses.  They are important transitional boundaries between land and water environments and act as buffers to protect surface waters from contamination.  They also provide habitat for a large variety of animals and birds.

They play a key role in our watersheds as they are like a safety zone, slowing down the flow of water; reducing the size of downstream floodwaters; preventing erosion; trapping sediments, nutrients and possible pathogens that are in stormwater runoff; help recharge groundwater; contribute to biodiversity in the area.
The City of Charlottetown’s urban watershed includes Ellen’s Creek, Hermitage Creek, Wright’s Creek, Riverside, and portions of Winter River and North River watersheds. 

Urban watersheds often exhibit a developed landscape with fragmented riparian habitat, resulting in greater risks to the waterways from upland activity.  The Riparian Area Health Assessment provides an insight into the health of the riparian zone and creates a starting point for the development of an urban watershed plan.  This assessment survey is designed to score the functionality level of the riparian zone by evaluating parameters related to riparian health.  It is based largely on vegetation types, the presence of human activity and soil disturbance. 

Segments of the riparian habitat are identified as being either fully functional (green), functional with issues (yellow) or non-functional (red).  This makes it possible to recognize problem areas, where improvement would benefit the health of the watershed.

 In the fall of 2012, the City of Charlottetown conducted a riparian area health assessment along Wright’s Creek and Ellen’s Creek. The results showed that the majority of the riparian zones within these watersheds are functioning at a high or acceptable level.  However, several ‘red’ zones were identified where factors such as road crossings, agricultural activity and development are negatively impacting the riparian zone and the streams.  It was also noted that issues found near some ‘yellow’ segments may present more of a risk than their scores indicate due to the proximity of urban development.  Possible remediation techniques were identified for each of the problem areas to help improve riparian zone functionality and conserve the City’s waterways.

Riparian Zone Health Assessment Final Report - 2013