Riparian habitat assessment

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Riparian habitat assessment


Hydromorphological assessment methods

Brief description

Riparian habitat assessment methods aim to identify, survey and assess riparian habitat conditions of rivers and streams. They are mainly applied at a local/reach scale, and generally to the overall river corridor, but focussing on vegetation characteristics. We reviewed 14 methods in total (5 for European countries and 9 for non-European countries) (Table 1).

Strengths, limitations and gaps

Methods of riparian habitat assessment adopt a similar approach to river habitat assessment, but focusing on the riparian component. They generally suffer the same limitations as for the habitat assessment (limited spatial and temporal scale, poor understanding of physical processes, etc.) but they successfully integrate vegetation in the assessment of river status. These methods have been developed mainly in southern European countries; they need validation and/or adaptation to be applied in other countries.

Other relevant information

Summary tables of analyzed riparian habitat assessement methods are available here:

- For European countries: File:2 EU.pdf

- For non European countries: File:2 nonEU.pdf

In the table we recorded whether the analyzed method considers or not a specific feature. Three options were considered: presence (tick), absence ( ), and probably assessed (PA), the latter indicating when there is an uncertainty concerning whether the feature is collected and/or when the feature may be indirectly obtained.

Table 1 lists the key and the analyzed references for methods of riparian habitat assessment.

Table 1. Analyzed references for methods of riparian habitat assessment.


Braioni M.G. and Penna G. (1998): I nuovi Indici Ambientali sintetici di valutazione della qualita delle rive e delle aree riparie: wild State Index, Buffer Strip Index, Environmental Landscape Indices: il metodo. Biologia ambientale 6:3-38.

Dixon I., Douglas M., Dowe J., Burrows D. and TownsendS. (2005): A rapid method for assessing the condition of riparian zones in the wet/dry tropics of northern Australia. 4th Australian Stream Management Conference. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, 173-178.

González Del Tánago M. and García De Jalón D. (2011): Riparian Quality Index (RQI): a methodology for characterizing and assessing environmental conditions of riparian zones. Limnetica, 30(2):235-254.

Jansen A., Robertson A., Thompson L. and Wilson, A. (2005): Rapid appraisal of riparian condition. Version two. River and Riparian Land Management, Technical Guideline 4A. Canberra, Land & Water Australia, 18 p.

Kleynhans C.J., Mackenzie J. and Louw M.D. (2007): Module F: Riparian Vegetation Response Assessment Index In: Kleynhans C.J., Louw M.D., Thirion C., Rossouw N. J. and & Rowntree K. M. (2005): River EcoClassification: Manual for EcoStatus Determination (version 2). Joint Water Research Commission and Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (South Africa), 98 p.

Magdaleno F., Martínez R. and Roch V. (2010): Índice RFV para la valoración del estado del bosque de ribera. Ingeniería Civil 157:85-96.

Munné A. and Prat N. (1998): QBR: Un índice rápido para la evaluación de la calidad de los ecosistemas de ribera. Tecnología del Agua 175:20–37.

Munné A., Prat N., Sola C., Bonada N. and Rieradevell M. (2003): A simple field method for assessing the ecological quality of riparian habitat in rivers and streams: QBR index. Aquatic conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 13: 147-163.

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) (2000): Oregon Watershed Assessment Manual, 583 p.

Prichard D., Barrett H., Cagney J., Clark R., Fogg J., Gebhardt K., Hansen P.L., Mitchell B. and Tippy D. (1998): Riparian area management: Process for assessing proper functioning condition. Technical Reference 1737-9, BLM/SC/ST-9/003+1737+REV95+REV98. Bureau of Land Management, Denver, CO.

Saint-Jaques N. and Richard Y. (1998) : Développement d'un indice de qualité de la bande riveraine : application à la rivière Chaudière et mise en relation avec l'intégrité biotique du milieu aquatique. In: Le bassin de la rivière Chaudière: qualité de la bande riveraine. Direction des écosystèmes aquatiques - Ministère de l'Environnement et de la faune (Quebec), 6.1-6.41.

Smith D., Ammann A., Bartoldus C. and Brinson M.M. (1995): An Approach for Assessing Wetland Functions Using Hydrogeomorphic Classification, Reference Wetlands, and Functional Indices. vol Wetlands Research Program Technical Report WRP-DE-9. US Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station.

Ward T. A., Tate K.W. and Atwill E.R. (2003): Visual Assessment of Riparian Health. Vol ANR Publication 8089, Rangeland Monitoring Series. University of California, 23 p.

Winward A.F. (2000): Monitoring the Vegetation Resources in Riparian Areas. General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-47. US Department of Agricolture, 55 p.