Buffer zone

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Map of the current buffer zone in Cyprus, between the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north Cyprus BufferZoneInBlue.png
Map of the current buffer zone in Cyprus, between the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north
Modern buffer zone on the Belarus-Poland border in Brest with a security electric fence, a ploughed trace-control strip to show signs of passage, and a pillbox. Zagrazhdenie, KSP i DOT na belorussko-pol'skoi granitse 01.jpg
Modern buffer zone on the Belarus-Poland border in Brest with a security electric fence, a ploughed trace-control strip to show signs of passage, and a pillbox.

A buffer zone is a neutral zonal area that lies between two or more bodies of land, usually pertaining to countries. Depending on the type of buffer zone, it may serve to separate regions or conjoin them. Common types of buffer zones are demilitarized zones, border zones and certain restrictive easement zones and green belts. Such zones may be comprised by a sovereign state, forming a buffer state.


Buffer zones have various purposes, politically or otherwise. They can be set up for a multitude of reasons, such as to prevent violence, protect the environment, shield residential and commercial zones from industrial accidents or natural disasters, or even isolate prisons. Buffer zones often result in large uninhabited regions that are themselves noteworthy in many increasingly developed or crowded parts of the world.[ example needed ]


Sign marking the buffer zone of a habitat restoration project at Lake Hiawatha in Minneapolis, Minnesota Lake Hiawatha shoreline restoration sign.jpg
Sign marking the buffer zone of a habitat restoration project at Lake Hiawatha in Minneapolis, Minnesota

For use in nature conservation, a buffer zone is often created to enhance the protection of areas under management for their biodiversity importance. The buffer zone of a protected area may be situated around the periphery of the region or may be a connecting zone within it that links two or more protected areas, therefore increasing their dynamics and conservation productivity. A buffer zone can also be one of the protected area categories (e.g. category V or VI of IUCN Protected Area) or a classification scheme (e.g. NATURA 2000) depending on the conservation objective. [1] The term 'buffer zone' initially gained prominence in the conservation of natural and cultural heritage through its usage in the establishment of UNESCO's World Heritage Convention, and the term was intended to be used as follows:

A buffer zone serves to provide an additional layer of protection to a World Heritage property. The concept of a buffer zone was first included in the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in 1977. In the most current version of the Operational Guidelines of 2005 the inclusion of a buffer zone into a nomination of a site to the World Heritage List is strongly recommended but not mandatory.

World Heritage Convention [2]

The buffer zone is one of the Best Management Practices (BMPs). A buffer zone is intended to avert the effect of negative environmental or human influences, whether or not it embodies natural or cultural value itself. [3] The importance and function of a buffer zone and the necessary protective measures derived thereof is a relatively new concept in conservation science and can differ greatly for each site. [4]

Ecological functions of conservation

Water quality improvement

The quality of surface water in many countries is getting worse due to the misuse of land. [5] Although the buffer zone occupies a small area, it greatly improves the quality of water in the agricultural watershed due to its filtering effect on nutrients in the underground water and surface water.

Because farmland is sprayed with large amounts of pesticides, some of which can seep into surface water, fish and other aquatic life can be negatively affected, which in turn can lead to environmental damage. Vegetation buffer has been proved to be an effective filter for sediment, especially for sediment-bound pesticides. [6] When pesticides are sprayed in excess, a vegetation buffer can be built to reduce the penetration of pesticides into surface water. The buffer zone also prevents heavy metals or toxins from spreading to protected areas. [7]

Riverbank stabilization

When riverbanks are low due to plant roots entering the interior of the riverbank vertically, the sediment of riverbank is affected by the action of said plant roots, and the ability to resist erosion is higher than that without plant roots. But when the riverbanks are higher, the roots of the plants do not penetrate deeply into the soil, and the lakeshore soil is not very strong. Herbaceous plants can play a role to some extent, but in the long term, vegetation buffer zone can effectively solve the problem of water level rise and water erosion.

The adsorption capacity of a buffer zone can reduce the speed of surface runoff and increase the effective water content of soil. Through increasing soil organic matter content and improving soil structure, a buffer zone can have a positive effect on soil water storage performance. In addition, plant roots make the soil stronger, withstand waves and rainstorm, mitigate the erosion of riverbanks by floods, and effectively control the erosion of the beach.

Wildlife food and habitat

A riparian buffer in Story County, Iowa, protecting a creek Riparian buffer on Bear Creek in Story County, Iowa.JPG
A riparian buffer in Story County, Iowa, protecting a creek

Riparian buffer zones have been used in many areas to protect the habitats of many animals which are being devastated by increased human activity. The areas around the buffer zone can form the habitat of many animals, and plants can become food for small aquatic animals. The buffer zone itself can also support the life activities of various amphibians and birds. Plants and animals can migrate or spread in response to these buffer zones, thus increasing the biodiversity in the area.

A 1998 study shows that the species and number of animals and plants in riparian zones are higher than in other ecosystems. [8] Because of their ability to provide abundant water, soft soil and stable climate, small animals such as Myotis and Martes prefer to live along riverbanks rather than in hilly areas. [9] The buffer zone can also provide a good environment for upland habitat, which is in line with the living conditions of freshwater turtles, making them more dependent on the wetland environment. [10] The protection level of the buffer zones will affect the habitat range of amphibians and reptiles, and the environmental management of the wetland habitat around buffer zone is extremely important.

Providing aesthetic value

As an important part of riparian zone, the vegetation buffer zones form a variety of landscape, and the landscape pattern of combining land and water improves the aesthetic value of river basin landscape. The riparian buffer is rich in plant resources, and the wetland, grassland and forest ecosystem make the landscape more beautiful. In addition, some recreational facilities can be built in the buffer zone to provide better living conditions for residents or tourists and improve people's quality of life.

In the buffer zone, trees up to 6 meters tall greatly enhance the aesthetic value of the landscape. [11] These tall trees have luxuriant branches and leaves, especially their upright posture, making them of higher ornamental value. Some colorful landscape tree species can be planted on both sides of rivers with tourism and sightseeing value to improve the aesthetic value of the place. The establishment of vegetation in the buffer zone can increase green land, improve forest coverage, beautify the environment and visual effect, improve people's living environment, enrich humanistic landscape, and enhance aesthetic value. By emphasizing the importance of the buffer zone, local residents can be encouraged to participate in the protection and management of the buffer zone, and set up checkpoints around the buffer zone to make it more secure and effective.

See also

Related Research Articles

Wetland Land area that is permanently or seasonally saturated with water

A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally. Flooding results in oxygen-free (anoxic) processes prevailing, especially in the soils. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from terrestrial land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique anoxic hydric soils. Wetlands are considered among the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal species. Methods for assessing wetland functions, wetland ecological health, and general wetland condition have been developed for many regions of the world. These methods have contributed to wetland conservation partly by raising public awareness of the functions some wetlands provide.

Marsh Wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species

A marsh is a wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species. Marshes can often be found at the edges of lakes and streams, where they form a transition between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. They are often dominated by grasses, rushes or reeds. If woody plants are present they tend to be low-growing shrubs, and then sometimes called carrs. This form of vegetation is what differentiates marshes from other types of wetland such as swamps, which are dominated by trees, and mires, which are wetlands that have accumulated deposits of acidic peat.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners and managers.

Windbreak Rows of trees or shrubs planted to provide shelter from the wind

A windbreak (shelterbelt) is a planting usually made up of one or more rows of trees or shrubs planted in such a manner as to provide shelter from the wind and to protect soil from erosion. They are commonly planted in hedgerows around the edges of fields on farms. If designed properly, windbreaks around a home can reduce the cost of heating and cooling and save energy. Windbreaks are also planted to help keep snow from drifting onto roadways or yards. Farmers sometimes use windbreaks to keep snow drifts on farm land that will provide water when the snow melts in the spring. Other benefits include contributing to a microclimate around crops, providing habitat for wildlife, and, in some regions, providing wood if the trees are harvested.

Grazing Feeding livestock on forage

In agriculture, grazing is a method of animal husbandry whereby domestic livestock are allowed outdoors to roam around and consume wild vegetations in order to convert the otherwise indigestible cellulose within grass and other forages into meat, milk, wool and other animal products, often on land unsuitable for arable farming.

Agricultural wastewater treatment Farm management for controlling pollution from confined animal operations and surface runoff

Agricultural wastewater treatment is a farm management agenda for controlling pollution from confined animal operations and from surface runoff that may be contaminated by chemicals in fertilizer, pesticides, animal slurry, crop residues or irrigation water. Agricultural wastewater treatment is required for continuous confined animal operations like milk and egg production. It may be performed in plants using mechanized treatment units similar to those used for industrial wastewater. Where land is available for ponds, settling basins and facultative lagoons may have lower operational costs for seasonal use conditions from breeding or harvest cycles. Animal slurries are usually treated by containment in anaerobic lagoons before disposal by spray or trickle application to grassland. Constructed wetlands are sometimes used to facilitate treatment of animal wastes.

Riparian zone Interface between land and a river or stream

A riparian zone or riparian area is the interface between land and a river or stream. Riparian is also the proper nomenclature for one of the terrestrial biomes of the Earth. Plant habitats and communities along the river margins and banks are called riparian vegetation, characterized by hydrophilic plants. Riparian zones are important in ecology, environmental resource management, and civil engineering because of their role in soil conservation, their habitat biodiversity, and the influence they have on fauna and aquatic ecosystems, including grasslands, woodlands, wetlands, or even non-vegetative areas. In some regions, the terms riparian woodland, riparian forest, riparian buffer zone,riparian corridor, and riparian strip are used to characterize a riparian zone. The word riparian is derived from Latin ripa, meaning "river bank".

Erosion control Practice of preventing soil erosion in agriculture and land development

Erosion control is the practice of preventing or controlling wind or water erosion in agriculture, land development, coastal areas, river banks and construction. Effective erosion controls handle surface runoff and are important techniques in preventing water pollution, soil loss, wildlife habitat loss and human property loss.

Environmental issues in Pakistan include air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, climate change, pesticide misuse, soil erosion, natural disasters, desertification and flooding. According to the 2020 edition of the environmental performance index (EPI) ranking released by Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Pakistan ranks 142 with an EPI score of 33.1, an increase of 6.1 over a 10-year period. It ranked 180 in terms of air quality. The climatic changes and global warming are the most alarming issues risking millions of life across country. The major reasons of these environmental issues are carbon emissions, population explosion, and deforestation.

Conservation Reserve Program U.S. federal aid program

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a cost-share and rental payment program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Under the program, the government pays farmers to take certain agriculturally used croplands out of production and convert them to vegetative cover, such as cultivated or native bunchgrasses and grasslands, wildlife and pollinators food and shelter plantings, windbreak and shade trees, filter and buffer strips, grassed waterways, and riparian buffers. The purpose of the program is to reduce land erosion, improve water quality and effect wildlife benefits.


Revegetation is the process of replanting and rebuilding the soil of disturbed land. This may be a natural process produced by plant colonization and succession, manmade rewilding projects, accelerated process designed to repair damage to a landscape due to wildfire, mining, flood, or other cause. Originally the process was simply one of applying seed and fertilizer to disturbed lands, usually grasses or clover. The fibrous root network of grasses is useful for short-term erosion control, particularly on sloping ground. Establishing long-term plant communities requires forethought as to appropriate species for the climate, size of stock required, and impact of replanted vegetation on local fauna. The motivations behind revegetation are diverse, answering needs that are both technical and aesthetic, but it is usually erosion prevention that is the primary reason. Revegetation helps prevent soil erosion, enhances the ability of the soil to absorb more water in significant rain events, and in conjunction reduces turbidity dramatically in adjoining bodies of water. Revegetation also aids protection of engineered grades and other earthworks.

Regarding the civil engineering of shorelines, soft engineering is a shoreline management practice that uses sustainable ecological principles to restore shoreline stabilization and protect riparian habitats. Soft Shoreline Engineering (SSE) uses the strategic placement of organic materials such as vegetation, stones, sand, debris, and other structural materials to reduce erosion, enhance shoreline aesthetic, soften the land-water interface, and lower costs of ecological restoration.

Buffer strip

A buffer strip is an area of land maintained in permanent vegetation that helps to control air quality, soil quality, and water quality, along with other environmental problems, dealing primarily on land that is used in agriculture. Buffer strips trap sediment, and enhance filtration of nutrients and pesticides by slowing down surface runoff that could enter the local surface waters. The root systems of the planted vegetation in these buffers hold soil particles together which alleviate the soil of wind erosion and stabilize stream banks providing protection against substantial erosion and landslides. Farmers can also use buffer strips to square up existing crop fields to provide safety for equipment while also farming more efficiently.

Riparian buffer

A riparian buffer or stream buffer is a vegetated area near a stream, usually forested, which helps shade and partially protect the stream from the impact of adjacent land uses. It plays a key role in increasing water quality in associated streams, rivers, and lakes, thus providing environmental benefits. With the decline of many aquatic ecosystems due to agriculture, riparian buffers have become a very common conservation practice aimed at increasing water quality and reducing pollution.

Pond Relatively small body of standing water

A pond is an area filled with water, either natural or artificial, that is smaller than a lake. Defining them to be less than 5 hectares in area, less than 5 meters (16 ft) deep, and with less than 30% emergent vegetation helps in distinguishing their ecology from that of lakes and wetlands. Ponds can be created by a wide variety of natural processes, or they can simply be isolated depressions filled by runoff, groundwater, or precipitation, or all three of these. They can be further divided into four zones: vegetation zone, open water, bottom mud and surface film. The size and depth of ponds often varies greatly with the time of year; many ponds are produced by spring flooding from rivers. Ponds may be freshwater or brackish in nature. 'Ponds' with saltwater, with a direct connection to the sea that maintains full salinity, would normally be regarded as part of the marine environment because they would not support fresh or brackish water organisms, so not really within the realm of freshwater science.

Freshwater biology The scientific study of freshwater ecosystems and biology

Freshwater biology is the scientific biological study of freshwater ecosystems and is a branch of limnology. This field seeks to understand the relationships between living organisms in their physical environment. These physical environments may include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, or wetlands. Knowledge from this discipline is also widely used in industrial processes to make use of biological processes involved with sewage treatment and water purification. Water presence and flow is an essential aspect to species distribution and influences when and where species interact in freshwater environments.

Riparian-zone restoration Ecological restoration of river banks and floodplains

Riparian-zone restoration is the ecological restoration of riparian-zonehabitats of streams, rivers, springs, lakes, floodplains, and other hydrologic ecologies. A riparian zone or riparian area is the interface between land and a river or stream. Riparian is also the proper nomenclature for one of the fifteen terrestrial biomes of the earth; the habitats of plant and animal communities along the margins and river banks are called riparian vegetation, characterized by Aquatic plants and animals that favor them. Riparian zones are significant in ecology, environmental management, and civil engineering because of their role in soil conservation, their habitat biodiversity, and the influence they have on fauna and aquatic ecosystems, including grassland, woodland, wetland or sub-surface features such as water tables. In some regions the terms riparian woodland, riparian forest, riparian buffer zone, or riparian strip are used to characterize a riparian zone.

Living shorelines

Living shorelines are a relatively new approach for addressing shoreline erosion and protecting marsh areas. Unlike traditional structures such as bulkheads or seawalls that worsen erosion, living shorelines incorporate as many natural elements as possible which create more effective buffers in absorbing wave energy and protecting against shoreline erosion. The process of creating a living shoreline is referred to as soft engineering, which utilizes techniques that incorporate ecological principles in shoreline stabilization. The natural materials used in the construction of living shorelines create and maintain valuable habitats. Structural and organic materials commonly used in the construction of living shorelines include sand, wetland plants, sand fill, oyster reefs, submerged aquatic vegetation, stones and coir fiber logs.

The Point Cook Coastal Park covers an area of 863 hectares and includes the Cheetham Wetlands. The park extends from the RAAF Williams Point Cook Base northeast along the coast to the Laverton creek which comprises its northern boundary. The park is approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Melbourne, Australia in a southwesterly direction along Port Phillip Bay. The park is adjoined by the Point Cook Marine Sanctuary, which extends around the point to the south and the east. The northwestern boundary to the park is residential housing.

Swamps of the Blue Mountains

The swamp communities of the Blue Mountains are a geographically dispersed group of ecologically-endangered peat swamp communities, spanning multiple parts of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales, Australia.


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