Creating strips of vegetation within a field can provide a physical barrier that slows the flow of overland runoff, increases infiltration and prevents soil, sediment and nutrient loss from fields.
Riparian buffer strips are next to watercourses (between 4-12m away from the bank) whereas in-field buffer strips are found adjacent to field boundaries and across fields.
Buffer strips can contain long grasses, trees and shrubs. Alongside a river they usually require fencing to prevent livestock from accessing both the buffer strip and the watercourse itself. Alternative drinking sources, such as gravity fed drinking troughs, solar pumps or pasture pumps can be used to provide livestock with access to water.
How they work
Vegetation in the buffer strip increases the roughness of the land surface, which slows runoff as well as increasing the interception and absorption of rainfall and therefore provide a great Natural Flood Management (NFM) benefit.
Planting trees as part of a riparian buffer strip will also help to stabilise riverbanks, helping to prevent erosion and reducing the amount of silt entering the river. The trees also shade rivers, keeping them cool for aquatic wildlife.
Some benefits of buffer strips for farmers include: providing shelter and shade for livestock and providing habitat for beneficial insects, such as pollinators and predators of pests. Also buffer strips can help farmers comply with the Farming Rules for Water (2018) by reducing the area alongside a river where there is potential soil poaching by cattle’s hooves to occur.
Buffer strips can trap and filter runoff therefore improving the water quality of the river by helping to prevent nutrients, sediments and pesticides from reaching the river. Keeping livestock out of the water also reduces the risk of livestock acquiring waterborne diseases.
In the Eden catchment, we have worked with a number of land owners to introduce both types of fenced-off buffer strips, mainly through agri-environment schemes such as Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship scheme.
How you can help
If you are a farmer/landowner interested creating a buffer strip or riparian tree planting, read the Natural Flood Management Measures: A guide for Farmers hand book. If you are in one of our Facilitation Fund Farmers groups, get in touch with our Farming and Conservation team for an informal chat about their suitability on your land.