Benefits of Backyard Buffers

Importance of Buffers
Benefits of Buffers
Links for Buffers
Getting Started
Determining Slope
Planting Materials
Landscape Maintenance
Getting Started with Landscape Maintenance
Links for Landscape Maintenance

What are the benefits of backyard buffers?

  • Buffers improve water quality.
    Runoff carries sediment with it as it travels across land. Pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides can attach to sediments and enter water. Buffers slow runoff, allowing the pollutant-laden sediments to settle out. In addition, buffers reduce erosion.

  • Buffers protect groundwater and drinking water.
    Buffers slow runoff and allow more water to percolate through the soil and recharge groundwater resources. This also reduces flooding.

  • Buffers create wildlife habitat.
    Many wildlife species thrive in edge communities. Buffers are the perfect edge community, offering water, food, and shelter.

  • Buffers improve aquatic habitat.
    Buffers reduce the amount of polluted sediment entering the stream, decreasing the instances of excessive plant growth and leading to a better balance between plant and animal life in the water. Vegetation on streambanks helps shade and cool water, which is necessary for many fish species to thrive.

  • Buffers provide visual interest.
    Buffer plants can be chosen to supply color all year round-spring flowers, fall foliage, and winter bark color and evergreens.

  • Buffers grow stronger with time.
    Vegetative buffers are the only streamside stabilization technique that actually grows stronger over time. As plants mature and become more numerous and diverse, they actually do a better job of holding soil in place and filtering and slowing runoff. All structural erosion control methods weaken over time.


Vegetative buffers can be extremely effective at slope stabilization and erosion control. However, there are limitations to the method. First of all, vegetation cannot completely stop erosion, but it can slow erosion to an acceptable level. Vegetative buffers will only be effective at minimizing erosion on gradual slopes and may not be practical in all situations. In situations where erosion is minimal, vegetative buffers are recommended. They are usually cheaper to install, easier to maintain, and more aesthetically pleasing than engineered structures.

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Updated: March 8, 2010