Dec 11, 2014

The Riparian Zone Estimator Tool (RipZET) is a GIS-based decision support tool under development for estimating riparian zones at the watershed and/or project scale. The tool provides reach-scale functional riparian width estimates based on average height of mature riparian vegetation, the steepness of hillslopes adjacent to the channel, and the floodplain inundation extent for large storm events. The appropriate width estimate for a reach is then determined based on the riparian functions associated with different channel types, which range from steep headwater channels to low-gradient, meandering channels with broad floodplains.

RipZET has been tested to date in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as in the Tahoe Basin and Central Coast, and has been reviewed by regional science and management experts. Once finalized, RipZET will provide watershed management communities with a robust tool that can be used to size riparian areas to achieve needed levels of selected riparian functions. The loss of riparian areas has affected water quality and habitat conditions and presented a number of challenges for natural resource managers and planners. Current approaches for restoring and protecting riparian areas are starting to focus on appropriate riparian functions or ecological services, including stream shading, bank stabilization, organic and inorganic material input, runoff filtration, floodwater storage, and groundwater recharge. Land-use planners therefore need tools to help visualize the extent of “functional riparian width” as a means of ensuring appropriate riparian functions for stream reaches targeted for restoration and relatively undisturbed stream reaches targeted for development.

The RipZet tool will be released in March 2015.

Programs and Focus Areas: 
Environmental Informatics Program
Resilient Landscapes Program
Wetland Monitoring & Assessment
Watershed Science & Management