Environmental Management

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 543-558

First online:

Role of buffer strips in management of waterway pollution: A review

  • Rowan D. BarlingAffiliated withRural Water Corporation
  • , Ian D. MooreAffiliated withCentre for Resource & Environmental Studies Institute of Advanced Studies, The Australian National University

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A buffer strip can perform a multitude of functions, and these include channel stability, a filter for sediment and nutrients, water purification (e.g., bacteria and pathogens), a nondisturbance area, and the provision of terrestrial and stream habitat. These functions are reviewed with specific application to Australian conditions, and methods for modeling their performance are outlined. The primary focus is on the use of buffer strips to minimize waterway pollution from diffuse sources since their use is often justified on this basis. Particular attention is given to the conditions under which a buffer strip will act as an effective filter and the conditions under which it will fail. Buffer strips are most effective when the flow is shallow (nonsubmerged), slow, and enters the buffer strip uniformly along its length. Their sediment trapping performance decreases as the sediment particle size decreases. Nutrients are often preferentially attached to fine sediment. As a result, buffer strips are better filters of sediment than of nutrients. Buffer strips should only be considered as a secondary conservation practice after controlling the generation of pollutants at their source and, to be effective, buffer strips should always be carefully designed, installed, and maintained.

Key words

Buffer strips Vegetative filter strips Sediment Nutrients Waterway pollution