Riparian areas are a landscape eco-tone, which is a transitional area between two distinct but adjoining communities, in this case, land and water. It is for this reason that diversity of flora and fauna is potentially so high, as long as food and habitat requirements are met. Some important components include vegetation, food, standing water, shelter from predators, sites for nesting and roosting, and a local micro-climate with reduced effects of weather extremes.
Wildlife use different parts of the riparian zone: some such as fish, spend their entire lives in a confined area; others such as birds, use these areas in a more transient way; and some such as wallabies, only use it for watering. Riparian zones also provide corridors through often degraded landscapes.
The major wildlife groups found in and around waterways include bio-film*, aquatic and terrestrial plants, fish, invertebrates, mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs. Many of these species in these groups are threatened or declining depending on their geographical locations. (* bio-film – consists of bacteria, algae and fungi in the form of a slimy coat over hard surfaces. The bio-film provides a rich food source for many invertebrates, and certain bacteria perform a water purification role. It is an essential part of the aquatic food web.)
…river systems are under more pressure to provide water and other services to humans, wildlife becomes more threatened. In order to properly manage the riparian zone to maximise benefits for wildlife, a reasonable knowledge of the wildlife and their requirements is advantageous where information is available.
from, “riverways, Shortcuts to River Management Information in Australia” p118-119. Greening Australia Ltd 2005.