The Social Dimensions of Riparian Land Use and Management in Southern Appalachia

4:00 - 4:20

Riparian zones are critical areas for habitat preservation, yet urbanization, agriculture, and household land use practices are resulting in the degradation of riparian ecosystems and the need for protection and restoration. However, efforts focused solely on restoration without understanding the cause of degradation will ultimately fail. In order to understand the impacts of human land use on stream and riparian health, it is necessary to understand the motivations driving stream management decisionmaking and behavior that lead to riparian degradation. Doctoral research conducted in the Blue Ridge EcoRegion of Southern Appalachia between June 2011 to September 2012 will be presented. A mixed method approach of qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis were used to determine landowner preferences for riparian zones, dominant motivations driving riparian management techniques and decision-making, and optimal approaches for maximizing riparian protection. Primary drivers of land use decision-making included tradition/habit, aesthetics, social pressure, and preference. This often translates to stream management resulting in landowners "cleaning" their streams of large woody debris and keeping their stream banks cleared of riparian vegetation, thereby degrading the integrity of the stream condition and water quality.