Status of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The Chesapeake Forest Restoration Strategy includes current data, case studies, and strategies related to restoring forests in urban, agricultural, and natural areas. Special attention is given to the effects of climate change on restoration. (USDA Forest Service, 2020)

Buffering the Bay is a report on the progress and challenges of restoring riparian forest buffers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, including needs and limitations in order to meet the 2025 Bay TDML goals, especially in reference to the CREP program. (Chesapeake Bay Program, 2013)

The Chesapeake Riparian Forest Initiative website includes a timeline of the history of the Chesapeake Riparian Forest Initiative, state reports, and the Chesapeake Riparian Forest Initiative Final Report. (multiple sources, 2015)

Buffer Overview

Forest Buffers on the Water’s Edge is a brief overview of the benefits and importance of riparian buffers, basic species information, and ways to support buffer planting work. (Virginia Department of Forestry, 2013)

Riparian Buffers: Pennsylvania’s Best Solution for Protecting its Waters describes different types of streamside habitat and the benefits and challenges of each. (Penn State Extension, 2017)

The National Agroforestry Center’s Riparian Forest Buffers website gives a brief overview of riparian forest buffers with links to other more in-depth resources like webinars, economic assessments, and photos (USDA)

Understanding the Science Behind Riparian Forest Buffers: Effects on Plant and Animal Communities discusses the different physical, chemical, and vegetative aspects of a riparian forest buffer and how they benefit plants and animals. (Virginia Cooperative Extension, 2009)

Working Trees for Wildlife outlines general benefits that trees provide and the different types of tree plantings that are used like buffers, silvopasture, and windbreaks. (USDA National Agroforestry Center, 2014)

Where Rivers Are Born: The Scientific Imperative for Defending Small Streams and Wetlands summarizes the scientific basis for understanding that the health and productivity of rivers and lakes depends upon intact small streams and wetlands. (American Rivers and Sierra Club, 2007)

Buffer Implementation and Maintenance

The Landowner Guide to Buffer Success provides chronological tasks to complete throughout the year to maintain a riparian forest buffer. It also includes an invasive species list. (multiple sources, 2007)

Penn State’s Forest Landowners Guide to Tree Planting Success webpage helps landowners with riparian buffer site assessment, design, species selection, proper planting techniques, and maintenance. (Penn State Extension, 2014)

The Chesapeake Bay Riparian Handbook is a detailed, watershed-wide guide to the importance of riparian buffers, site design, agricultural and urban considerations, forest management, public education. (USDA Forest Service, 1998)

Conservation Buffers is a holistic guide to the different design considerations and benefits of a riparian forest buffer including biodiversity, soil quality, economic opportunities, and human use. (USDA Forest Service, 2008)

The Green Book for the Buffer is an extensive guide focused on tidal and stream buffer plantings within Maryland with background information on various types of buffers, how to make a management plan, sample small-scale plans, and how to maintain the planting long term. (Maryland DNR, 2012)

How to Plan for and Plant is a handbook on creating more detailed, smaller-scale multifunctional buffer plantings, with lessons learned from other locations. (Virginia Cooperative Extension, 2018)

Inter-state Technical Guidance for Tree Shelters is a detailed technical guide about about tree shelter selection, maintenance, and removal. (multiple sources, 2019)

Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Riparian Forest Buffers website presents the 3 Zone buffer system that seperates buffers into 3 sections, each with its own function and structure. (Maryland DNR)

Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Riparian Forest Buffer Design and Maintenance Guide outlines different considerations when planting a riparian forest buffer including soil conditions, previous land use, and invasive plant pressures. The guide also covers maintenance considerations. (Maryland DNR, 2005)

Chapter 6 of the Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual covers design, species selection, timeline, maintenance, and other considerations of riparian forest buffers. (Pennsylvania DEP, 2006).

The Brandywine Conservancy’s Forested Riparian Buffer Planting Guide for Landowners and Developers is a how-to guide for the planting and maintenance of forested riparian buffers, including recommended species, and sourcing and contractors in Pennsylvania. (Brandywine Conservancy, 2016)


Ryan Davis, from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, discusses developing effective planting plans in this 2021 video. (Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, 2021)

Art Gover, Penn State Extension, discusses importance of soil health, mycorrhizae, vegetation management, and different management techniques’ effects on tree growth and establishment in Planting Forests, Not Trees. (Penn State Extension, 2021)

Riparian Restoration 101 is a video series on riparian forest buffer design, implementation, and maintenance. (Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, 2022)

The Growing Great Buffers video series on an assortment of ways to better take care of a riparian forest buffer planting. (Penn State Extension)

Recent Research (within the past 15 years)

Streamside Forest Buffer Width Needed to Protect Stream Water Quality, Habitat, and Organisms: A Literature Review provides scientific support for the need for riparian forest buffers that are wider than 30 feet in order to have improved in-stream functions. (Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 2014. 50(3):560-584.)

Forest restoration on floodplains mantled with legacy sediments: removing sediments appears unnecessary for successful restoration outlines scientific support for establishing riparian forest buffers on sites with legacy sediment without removing the current in-stream sediment. (Restoration Ecology. 2019. 27(6): 1220-1230.)

Evaluation of riparian forests established by the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in Virginia is an analysis of the range of practices used on CREP buffers in Virginia and recommendations for improving buffer plantings. (Journal Soil and Water Conservation. 2010. 65(2):105-112.)

Water Quality Functions of a 15-Year-Old Riparian Forest Buffer System discusses changes in nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended solids over 15 years after a riparian forest buffer was planted. (J.D. Newbold et. al. Water quality functions of a 15-year-old riparian forest buffer system. (Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 2010. 46:299-310.)

River conservation, restoration, and preservation: rewarding private behavior to enhance the commons explores the use of incentivization of BMPs on private land through the use of monitoring and performance improvements.(Freshwater Science. 2016. 35(3):755–763.)

What are the effects of wooded riparian zones on stream temperature? is a literature review that surveyed studies on the effects of riparian zones on stream temperature; the review found that riparian buffers help to lower maximum temperatures and can help to mitigate the effects of climate change. (Environmental Evidence. 2012. 1, 3.)

The effects of river restoration on catchment scale flood risk and flood hydrology presents modeled effects of engineered stream restoration versus the effects of riparian forest buffers. Forested floodplains seemed to have the greatest positive effect on reducing the risks of flooding. (Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 2016. 41:997–1008.)

Forest operations, extreme flooding events, and considerations for hydrologic modeling in the Appalachians—A review is a literature review that examined the effects of timber harvesting on the hydrology of forests during major flood events. The study gathered general conclusions about the effects but modeling is difficult due to a wide range of certainty in the models. (Forest Ecology and Management. 2007. 242(2/3):77-98.)

What matters most: Are future stream temperatures more sensitive to changing air temperatures, discharge, or riparian vegetation? modeled the effects of a warming climate on stream temperature. The study found that shade from riparian vegetation had a strong impact on reducing stream temperature. (Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 2019. 55(1):116–132.)

Riparian forests can mitigate warming and ecological degradation of agricultural headwater streams looked at the difference between forested and open headwaters in agricultural land. Water quality indicators were better in forested areas indicating that riparian forest buffers can mitigate the negative impacts of agricultural practices on waterways. (Freshwater Biology. 2021. 66:785–798.)

Historic Research (older than 15 years)

Riparian deforestation, stream narrowing, and loss of stream ecosystem services supports that forested stream channels more effectively handle pollutants and enhance in-stream functions. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2004. 101(39):14132–14137.)

Riparian Forest Restoration: Increasing Success by Reducing Plant Competition and Herbivory describes scientific justification for the use of tree shelters and vegetative control, specifically the use of herbicide.(Restoration Ecology. 2002. 10(2):392-400.)

How Planting Method, Weed Abatement, and Herbivory Affect Afforestation Success explores dibble bar versus augar planting methods, herbicide treatment, and the use of tree shelters. Planting method did not appear to have a significant effect on survival while weed control and shelter use did. (Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 2007. 31(2):85-92.)

Resurrecting the in-stream side of riparian forests is a Literature review of the importance of riparian forests buffers on the improvement of in-stream quality. (Journal of Contemporary Water Resources and Education. 2007. 136(1):17-27.)

Riparian forest restoration: why each site needs an ecological prescription describes the use of tree shelters and the effects of herbivory on tree seedlings. Neighboring plant competition was found to be less harmful than the effects of herbivory. (Forest Ecology and Management. 2004. 192(2/3):361-373.

Streamside Forests and the Physical, Chemical, and Trophic Characteristics of Piedmont Streams in Eastern North America is a research article on the effects of riparian forest buffers on the stream quality, specifically the in-stream habitat, nutrient chemistry, and presence of in-stream food. (Water Science and Technology. 1992. 26(12):2653-2573.)

Effects of streamside vegetation on macroinvertebrate communities of White Clay Creek in eastern North America describes the effects of riparian forest buffers on the aquatic macroinvertebrate community and native versus nonnative leaf inputs, including a section on riparian forest buffer design and species selection. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 1993. 144:291-340.)

Mapping Tools

The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture Interactive Catchment Explorer highlights eastern brook trout targeted catchments and allows users to look at a variables within those catchment areas like forest cover, road crossings, drainage area, and slope. (Interactive Catchment Explorer, 2011)

NFWF’s Priority Subwatersheds for Water Quality Improvement shows priority subwatersheds with the Chesapeake Bay watershed along with several priority species highlights including black ducks, eastern brook trout, oysters, and river herring. (National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, 2018)

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Data Dashboard houses information on nontidal and tidal water quality, restoration targeting, management practice implementation and planning for change in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The tool is organized by different goals and analysis that the user may want to see. (Chesapeake Bay Program, 2022)

The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Justice and Equity Dashboard looks at a variety of spatial data layers pertinent to addressing environmental issues in areas with underrepresented populations, which include communities of color, low income, and linguistically isolated communities. (Chesapeake Bay Program, 2021).

Tools for Better Targeting CBP Resources to Achieve Multiple Outcomes brings together many different mapping tools that are all focused on restoration within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Target areas of mapping tools are water quality improvements; fish, wildlife, and habitats; land conservation; and increased benefits to people. (Multiple organizations, 2022)

CREP Program

The Conservation Reserve Program fact sheet is a brief overview of what is new with the CREP program as of 2021 and how these changes are beneficial. (Farm Service Agency, 2021)

The state of Maryland provides These FAQs about the structure of the CREP program and easements in Maryland.

The Chesapeake Bay Riparian Forest Buffer CREP Report revisits the 2014 State Task Force Reports and suggests recommendations for today’s challenges and opportunities (Conservation Strategies Consulting, 2022).

Ecological Assessment of CREP. Rob Brooks, Penn State, talks about a study conducted on 149 different CREP plantings which looked at the buffer widths, vegetation present, flowpaths, and other features with several case studies shown as well as major findings in this 2021 presentation.

Conducting Outreach

Jim Kauffman, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, talks about buffers for game species in this 2021 presentation, that includes information on the need to highlight the wildlife benefits of riparian forest buffers when conducting outreach to landowners; special focus on white-tailed deer, wild turkey, small game, waterfowl, furbearers, and other species from Pennsylvania.

Bobby’s 7 Principles: Selling Riparian Forest Buffers is a colloquial guide to having conservations with farmers about implementing buffer plantings. (Bobby Whitescarver, 2015)

Bobby Whitescarver also provides 7 principles of getting more riparian buffers, his process for communicating the need for riparian forest buffers and how to effectively get a farmer to implement them. (Bobby Whitescarver, 2017)

Success Strategies for Reaching Out to Absentee Landowners is a 2016 presentation on how to reach out to and support absentee landowners who potentially aren’t very invested in conservation on the land they own. (Potomoc Conservancy, 2016)

Additional Specific Benefits

Long Term Nitrate Removal in Riparian Buffers is a 2021 presentation by Tyler Groh on how riparian forest buffers address nitrogen concerns and statistics on nitrate removal by buffers within the Chesapeake Bay watershed with focus on a case study in Iowa. (Penn State, 2021)

Bobby Whitescarver walks readers through the various benefits of planting native trees along streams with a main focus on their usage by aquatic macroinvertebrates in Want Clean Rivers? Plant Trees (Bobby Whitescarver, 2014).

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation presents the benefits of forests for human health on their Immerse Yourself in a Forest For Better Health website (NYS DEC)

Fish Need Leaves, an article by Bobby Whitescarver, discusses why riparian forest buffers are important for fish and the macroinvertebrates living within streams. (2015)

Virginia Cooperative Extension talks about the importance of aquatic biodiversity in What is Aquatic Biodiversity: Why is it Important? (Virginia Tech, 2019)

Buffer$ is a Microsoft Excel-based tool that can be used to analyze cost benefits of buffers compared to traditional crops. (USDA)

The Non-timber Forest Product Calculator is a Microsoft Excel-based tool provides general estimates of income potential from harvesting and selling non-timber forest products from a conservation planting. (USDA)

Why add edible and floral plants to riparian forest buffers? outlines the benefits of multifunctional riparian forest buffers with several examples of economic breakdowns for different species. ( USDA National Agroforestry Center, 2015)

Green Cities: Good Health outlines the indirect economic benefits of urban trees including property value effects and effects on retail within areas with more tree canopy. (USDA, 2010)

Estimating the Size and Impact of the Ecological Restoration Economy analyzes the economic output of the environmental restoration field by surveying businesses in the restoration field. (PLoS ONE. 2015. 10(6):e0128339)

Additional BMPs

The Quick Reference Guide for Best Management Practices is a very in-depth guide on the Chesapeake Bay Program structure, the CAST Model, and a number of different BMPs with their definitions and benefits. (Chesapeake Bay Program, 2018)

The Virginia Stream Restoration & Stabilization Best Management Practices Guide is a thorough guide on stream restoration BMPs like bank stabilization, grade control, and bank protection with sections on permitting, design, costs and the individual BMPs. (Virginia DCR, 2004)

Wildlife and Pollinators is a webpage that includes information on agroforestry practices, including riparian forest buffers, and how they benefit wildlife and pollinators. (USDA National Agroforestry Center)

The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Conservation Technical Assistance Program website outlines different ways to receive help to implement conservation practices. (NRCS)

Native Plants

Native Plants for Conservation, Restoration, and Landscaping is an overview of the importance of native plants and a list of native plants that can be found in Virginia. (Virginia DCR, 2011)

Chesapeake Bay Native Plant Center is an online database of native plants found within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that can be filtered by region, plant type, soil moisture, and more. (Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay)

Virginia Native Plant Finder is an online database of native plants found within Virginia that can by filtered by region, plant type, soil moisture, and more. (Virginia DCR)

Natural Communities of Virginia is a database of the different natural communities that make up Virginia that documents what species can be found within them and where they are located. (Virginia DCR, 2021)

Invasive Plants

Pennsylvania Field Guide is a detailed invasive plant guide that covers identification and control of 25 different plants that can be found in Pennsylvania. (Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, 2004)

Non-Native Invasive Plant Species Control Treatments is an overview of the timing, method, and herbicide application to address around 14 different invasive species found in Virginia. (Virginia Department of Forestry, 2018)

The Invasive Plant Fact Sheets webpage provides links to fact sheets for various invasive species found in Virginia that cover habitat, identification, and control methods for each species. (Blue Ridge Prism)

Management Guide for Invasive Plants in Southern Forests is an extremely comprehensive guide that details invasive plant management, herbicide application methods and tools, mechanical treatments, and specific strategies to use for each species in the southern United States. (USD Forest Service, 2015)

Non-Native Invasive ID and Control is a citizen’s guide to non-native invasive plants. (Fairfax County Park Authority, 2008)

Stream Restoration and Legacy Sediment

Forest restoration on floodplains mantled with legacy sediments: removing sediments appears unnecessary for successful restoration provides scientific support for establishing riparian forest buffers on sites with legacy sediment without removing the current in-stream sediment. (Restoration Ecology. 2019. 27(6):1220-1230.)

The effects of river restoration on catchment scale flood risk and flood hydrology describes modeled effects of engineered stream restoration versus the effects of riparian forest buffers. Forested floodplains seemed to have the greatest positive effect on reducing the risks of flooding. (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, 2016)
(Earth Surf. Proc. and Landforms. 2016. 41(7):997-1008.)

Privatizing stream restoration in the US (Social Studies of Science, 2010. 40(5):677–703.)

The Maintaining Forests in Stream Corridor Restoration project identified methods to reduce the impacts of stream restoration projects on existing riparian forest buffers. The project results were documented in a “best practices” guide for local governments and a final project report (Center for Watershed Protection, 2022)