Annotated bibliography of scientific papers discussing issues
relevant to buffer zones around wetlands in the East Valley near
Crested Butte, Colorado USA.
By Wendy S. Brown
This is the literature I have read on the subject of buffer zones
around wetland habitat. I have assembled this for background
information on the subject of a 100-foot buffer zone around some
wetlands on the southeast side of Snodgrass Mountain inside the boundaries of Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado USA. There are
many more relevant papers available on the topic of buffer zones.
I am a research technician working in Aquatic Entomology at
The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado. I have worked for several researchers in aquatic ecology, botany and various other areas of study since 1985 at the RMBL.
Burke Vincent J. and J. Whitfield Gibbons 1995 Terrestrial buffer zones and wetland conservation: A case
study of freshwater turtles in a Carolina Bay. Conservation Biology 9(6)1365-1369.
This study used Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis to test the effectiveness of state
and federal laws in the United States at protecting the habitats freshwater turtles need to complete their
lifecycles. The researchers spent a summer studying the life history of three species of turtles around the
Ellenton Bay wetland at the United States Department of Energy Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
They found that the federally delineated wetland failed to include any nests or hibernation burrows. The
most stringent standards evaluated were those of the state Massachusetts. Massachusetts requires a 30.5-
meter upland buffer zone beyond the federally delineated wetlands. The 30.5-meter buffer zone protected
44 percent of the nests and burrows. Full protection of turtle habitat would require a 275-meter buffer
beyond the current federal delineation. Considering only the 90 percent of nests closest to the federally
delineated wetland reduced the necessary buffer zone to 73 meters. The authors suggest that buffer zones
may vary by wetland type, upland characteristics and geographic region and resident species. They also
comment that preserving only one portion of a landscape (for example the aquatic habitat) is futile for
retaining the long-term viability of wetland species.
Cairns Jr., John 1995 Ecological integrity of ecological systems. Regulated Rivers: Research and
John discusses the ecological integrity of large rivers. He notes that ecological integrity is
impossible without biological integrity. It is difficult to extrapolate local measures of ecological integrity
to a landscape scale. In those cases it may be more valuable to make measurements at a larger scale. Until
we have those measurements, we should continue to use whatever biological data we have at our disposal.
Since humans and ecosystems have been coevolving since the agricultural revolution or before, it may be
helpful to evaluate two possible types of coevolution between human society and natural systems. 1) Arms
race - where humans ignore changes in ecological systems that lead to unpleasant consequences. 2)
Mutualism where the society responds to ecosystem changes and attempts to preserve ecological integrity.
"The simplest measures of ecological integrity may be the actions of human society to minimize or
markedly reduce negative impacts on natural systems."
Findlay, C. Scott and Houlahan, Jeff 1997 Anthropogenic correlates of species richness in Southeastern
Ontario wetlands. Conservation Biology 11(4)1000-1009.
They looked at the relationship between road construction and forest removal/ conversion on total
number of species (species richness) of birds, mammals, herptiles and plants. They found that bigger
wetlands had more species of all taxa. Species richness of all taxa except mammals decreased with
increasing road density within 2 km of the wetlands. Species richness of herptile and mammals increased
with increasing forest cover within 2 km of the wetlands. "These results provide evidence that at the
landscape level, road construction and forest removal on adjacent lands pose significant risks to wetland
diversity. Furthermore, they suggest that most existing wetland policies, which focus almost exclusively on
activities within the wetland itself and/or a narrow buffer zone around the wetland perimeter, are unlikely
to provide adequate protection for wetland biodiversity."
Hodges Jr., Malcom F. and David G. Krementz. 1996 Neotropical migratory breeding bird communities in
riparian forests of different widths along the Altamaha River, Georgia. Wilson Bulletin 108(3) 496-506.
After surveying riparian forest corridors of different widths, the authors found that species
richness and abundance of three species increased with increasing forest corridor width. "We suggest that
if Neotropical breeding bird communities are a target group, that land managers should consider leaving a
100 m buffer strip along riparian zones."
Hubbard, R.K. and R.R. Lowrance Riparian forest buffer system research at the Coastal Plain Experiment
Station, Tifton, GA. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 77:409-432.
The authors are interested in reducing the sedimentation of wetlands from agricultural lands. They
recommend a three zone riparian buffer strip. The researchers start with 5-10 meter buffer of permanent
trees next to the wetland, followed by a forest management zone where trees can be harvested, then a grass
buffer strip up to 10 meters wide to provide control of coarse sediment and to spread overland flow. They
are testing the efficiency of various buffer treatments on nutrient filtration.
Josselyn, M., J. Zedler, and T. Griswold. 1990 Wetland mitigation along the Pacific Coast of the United
States. pp. 3-36 in Kusler, JA., and ME Kentala, eds. Wetland Creation and Restoration. Island Press.
This is a summary chapter that mentions the work of many researchers. I do not have original
copies of all the references mentioned in this except: "Buffer zones may have a more diverse flora and
fauna than either of the two adjoining habitats (Jordan and Shisler, 1988). Buffers are important in
reducing excess nutrient and sediment loading to wetlands... Width is the most frequently cited criterion for
buffers. Generally thirty meters is recommended. ...the width should depend on the use of the upland area
and the sensitivity of the species planned for the mitigation site. Ecologists usually do not have the
information necessary to determine the most appropriate distance for individual situations. Based on field
study, White, (1986) recommended that 30m buffers would reduce impacts of human intrusion on Beldings
savannah sparrows, an endangered species in southern California. Josselyn et al. (1988) determined that
water birds varied in their response to disturbance depending upon acclimation and distance, but usually
reacted within 25 to 45 m." If wetland mitigation is part of a project, the authors recommend a monitoring
program of the constructed wetland for two reasons: 1) Enforcement - to determine the project is
completed in compliance with the permit specifications. 2) Evaluating effectiveness of the restoration
Kashiwaya, K., T. Okimura and T. Harada 1997 Land transformation and pond sediment information. Earth
Surface Processes and Landforms. 22:913-922.
The researchers studied 2 ponds in the Kobe district of central Japan for 5 years, one in a
developed watershed and one in an undeveloped watershed. They found the sedimentation rate in the pond
without land transformation nearby was roughly proportional to the rainfall intensity. The sedimentation
rate in the pond with land transformation occurring in the watershed above it had 4 times the sedimentation
rate than the pond surrounded by natural vegetation. As the bare soil revegetated, sedimentation rates
dropped to about twice that of the pond without land transformation. While grain size did not vary between
the ponds, the organic content of the sediments did vary. The pond with bare soil in its watershed had less
organic matter in its sediment based on grain density and loss on ignition of the sediments. The authors
presented a model of pond sedimentation that included factors for geomorphology of the watershed, rainfall
intensity and internal pond conditions.
The authors use the term "reclaim" to indicate the conversion of land from "natural slope" to "bare
slope". In America the term reclamation has changed in meaning in the past few decades. Reclamation used
to mean the conversion of wetlands to farmland, and has changed to refer to the attempts by humans to
return a habitat to something resembling the natural state.
Machtans, Craig S., Marc-Andre? Villard , Susan J Hannon 1996 Use of riparian buffer strips as
movement corridors by forest birds. Conservation Biology 10(5) 1366-1379.
They studied the movement of birds through riparian buffer strips before and after forest
harvesting in the boreal forests of Alberta. Capture rates of birds in mist nets increased for juvenile birds in
the buffer strips after clearcutting. Capture rates of adults decreased immediately after harvesting. The
number of adults was positively correlated with the number of territories within the strips. Movement rates
of forest species were significantly higher in buffer strips than in adjacent clearcuts. Buffer strips acted as a
corridor and enhanced the movements of dispersing juveniles and maintained movement rates of resident
birds. There appeared to be a threshold distance below which the birds were willing to fly across the
opening, reducing corridor use.
Mann, W. P. Dorn and R. Brandl 1991 Local distribution of amphibians: the importance of habitat
fragmentation. Global Ecology and Biogeography 1:36-41.
The authors surveyed amphibians in northern Bavaria. They found that habitat parameters such as
altitude, pool area and area of emergent vegetation was of minor importance in predicting the presence of
certain species. As the number of ponds in an area increased, the probability that a species occupied a
particular habitat increased. "It is suggested that habitat fragmentation (increasing number of ponds)
decreases the extinction and/or increases the colonization probability in a potential breeding habitat.
These authors use the phrase "habitat fragmentation" to indicate multiple ponds in an area. Americans tend
to use the phrase "habitat fragmentation" to indicate human disturbance breaking a large habitat into
Pearce, Robert A., M.J. Trlica, Wayne C. Leininger, James L. Smith, Gary W. Frasier 1997 Efficiency of
grass buffer strips and vegetation height on sediment filtration in laboratory rainfall simulations. Journal of
Environmental Quality 26:139-144.
These researchers investigated the influence of three widths of grass buffer strips on sediment
transport in a laboratory experiment. The original purpose of the study was to evaluate the stubble height
grazing guidelines. The results suggested that "vegetation height alone was not a suitable guideline for
estimating sediment filtration and that length of vegetation buffer was more important than vegetation
height in filtering sediment."
Tang, Swee May and David R. Montgomery 1995 Riparian buffers and potentially unstable ground.
Environmental Management 19(5) 741-749.
The authors looked at unstable ground and riparian buffer zone width in the Olympic Penninsula
of Washington. "The proportion of the potentially unstable ground in each watershed within riparian
buffers is a function of both buffer width and the extent of the stream channel network being buffered.
While current buffers required by Washington State cover less than 5% of the potentially unstable ground,
buffering all stream channels in these watersheds with 100-m buffers covered 75-90% of the potentially
unstable areas." The authors think the use of buffer zones is not adequate because many steep slopes are
outside of the 100m buffer zone. They recommend modeling each site and modifying the buffer on a site
by site basis. Many of the steeper sites need a wider buffer than 100 meters while many of the low angle
slopes could have a narrower buffer.
Vander Haegen, W. Matthew and Richard Degraaf 1996 Predation on artificial nests in forested riparian
buffer strips. Journal of Wildlife Management 60(3)542-550.
The authors found that nests in 20 - 40m riparian buffer strips were depredated more often than
those in intact forests. Red squirrels and Blue Jays were responsible for >50% of the nest depredations.
Black bears were observed only in tributary buffer strips and may have been using them as corridors
between larger forested stands. "Managers should leave wide (? 150 m ) buffer strips along riparian zones
to reduce edge-related nest predation, especially in landscapes where buffer strips are an important
component of the existing mature forest."
This page is maintained by Wendy Brownwsbrown@csn.net;
Version 1 (text)
Last modified on 30 Sep 1998.
I'm looking for more papers to review for this web page,
if you wrote one, email the URL, send it as an attatched file or
use snail mail:
Wendy S. Brown
P.O. Box 1451
Crested Butte, CO 81224