Methodology to Determine Optimal Riparian Buffer Width

Project Name: Atlantic Salmon Habitat Protection

Summary: Methodology for determining optimal riparian buffer width

Client: Maine State Planning Office

Project Location: Augusta, ME

Project Size: Statewide

Services Provided:
•  Aquatic Habitat Study
•  Riparian Study


Project Timeframe:
1998 - 2001

Relationship with Client: Since 1998

The project received an Honors Award from the Consulting Engineers of Maine (CEM) for excellence in the preservation of critical Atlantic salmon habitat. “This is user friendly, functional, and effective,” concluded CEM judges. “The predictive model that uses 11 weighted physically and biologically-based attributes is scientifically defensible and globally applicable.”

Client Needs:

The objective of this project was to develop a science-based riparian buffer management design to protect critical Atlantic salmon habitat from potential land use impacts. The Atlantic salmon had been declining on several river systems in rural Maine that contained the last remaining native runs of this species in the United States. These remaining runs were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Maine State Planning Office was required to develop a methodology to identify effective riparian buffer widths and characteristics for the conservation of Atlantic salmon spawning and nursery habitat.

Kleinschmidt Solution:

Kleinschmidt developed a method that utilizes a variable-width, two-zone approach and sets buffer widths as a function of characteristics influencing buffer effectiveness. Development of the method involved identifying 11 buffer attributes to predict optimal buffer width and identifying land uses that are consistent with desired buffer function. The project’s greatest challenge was to ensure that the method was scientifically defensible, effective in its purpose, and functional for the end users. End users include developers, timber companies, berry growers, and small private landowners occupying riparian areas along the targeted rivers. Kleinschmidt utilized technical personnel with a wide range of expertise because the project required a thorough understanding of issues including forest hydrology, river hydrology and geomorphology, terrestrial ecology, and salmon ecology. Kleinschmidt delivered a comprehensive method that is scientifically sound, readily applied, and effective in the conservation of critical Atlantic salmon habitat.

Client Benefits:

The basic framework of the method developed by Kleinschmidt involves applying a predictive science-based model that uses basic data collection to determine optimal buffer widths and compatible land uses. This model can be applied to other resource protection initiatives.