Animals & Riparian Zones

green frog water

Small brook trout may live in the shelter of larger rocks or tree roots, darting out in search of food. Raccoon and mink prowl the banks and flip over stones to find hidden insects or try to capture fish; birds and animals of many kinds come to drink or bathe along its edges.”

Department of the Environment, Wildlife and the Island

Streamsides play a key role in healthy wildlife communities and offer the richest diversity of any part of the forest. Shrubs and trees provide food and cover for many species of birds, amphibians and mammals. Plant species unique to narrow zones along streams add to the richness. These areas are also important as travel corridors, where animals can move from one area to another with some measure of protection.

Along streams, trees help reduce erosion and prevent waterways from silting up. Roots bind the soil together, leaf cover lessens the impact of heavy, potentially-eroding rains and large, dead trees on the ground can stop soil from moving downslope. Silt can smother the gravel beds needed for trout and salmon spawning habitat and destroy aquatic insects.

Shrubs and trees also shade waterways, preventing overheating that can be harmful to fish. Especially within older forests, logs and woody debris falling into streams create pools that provide useful habitat for fish.

What you can do:

  • Always maintain cover along stream edges. The Forest/Wildlife Guidelines and Standards for Nova Scotia call for a special management zone of 20 m (66 ft) or more on either side of the stream. Herb Hammond, a British Columbia forester specializing in holistic forestry, urges that no cutting at all should take place in very wide areas alongside streams. A cautious approach is certainly called for – concentrate on returning a healthy forest community to these areas. Some of the deeper valleys still have large specimens of Acadian species growing and may play an important role as sources of seed.
  • These are very productive areas for wildlife and the number of snags should be increased to 25-30 per hectare (10-12 per acre).
  • If the area beside a stream is full of dying trees, this is where you should concentrate your efforts. The Montague Watershed Project successfully under planted yellow birch and hemlock along streams in the area.
  • Natural selection harvesting systems offer exceptional protection for streamsides, since the whole forest is maintained as a greenbelt.
  • Keep heavy harvesting machinery away from streamsides – if you must remove trees blocking a stream, use a winch or horse.
  • Make sure that any bridges meet or exceed standards set by the provincial Department of Energy and Forestry, to protect against erosion and siltation.