California Wetlands and Riparian
Riparian habitats are the vital connections between aquatic and terrestrial environments: areas of great biological productivity because water and nutrient-rich sediments from repeated flooding are abundant. The value of riparian ecosystems for wildlife and people in California is immense, and the BLM is fortunate to be a steward of outstanding riparian ecosystems in California.
Riparian woodlands and forests are especially important as California’s wildlife and plant species respond to changing climate and shifting habitats. Riparian corridors are important for wildlife adaptation because they moderate local climate conditions and provide protective wildlife habitat and cover. Trees along streams and creeks cast shade on streams and creeks, protecting fish from stressful high water temperatures. Scientists look to restoring and enhancing riparian habitats as a way to increase storage of carbon in plants and in the soil. By increasing carbon storage on the ground, the BLM can help mitigate the modern-day buildup of carbon-based greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
BLM’s distinct riparian areas in California have dense tree species such as valley oak, ash species, western sycamore, and cottonwoods. Birds are especially attracted to this complex vegetation for nest sites and food supply, especially in the deserts where more than 90 percent of desert birds are found in riparian areas. The BLM’s desert riparian habitats along permanent flow stretches of the Mojave River, Cottonwood Creek, Amargosa River, and creeks in Big Morongo and Surprise canyons are favored birding locations and hiking spots.
But most of all, riparian habitats are the sponges that absorb large quantities and slow the speed of floodwaters. As a natural flood control, riparian vegetation slows water flow, reduces stream bank erosion, and thus increases the time for water to infiltrate the soils and replenish groundwater aquifers. By moderating high flows on BLM lands, flooding in settled areas downstream is avoided and property and lives are safeguarded.