Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension

Extension is almost done building a new website! Please take a sneak peek or read about our redesign process.

Extension > Environment > Agroforestry > Riparian Forest Buffers

Print Icon Email Icon Share Icon
Trout Painting

© Photo by Robin Freese

Riparian forest buffers for trout habitat improvement

Conservation buffers are strips of vegetation placed in the landscape to influence ecological processes and provide a variety of goods and services to us. They are called by many names, including wildlife corridors, greenways, windbreaks, and filter strips to name just a few. More about buffers.

Riparian forest buffers are natural or re-established streamside forests made up of tree, shrub, and grass plantings. They buffer non-point source pollution of waterways from adjacent land, reduce bank erosion, protect aquatic environments, enhance wildlife, and increase biodiversity.

Trout habitat improvement

Minnesota is home to over 450 miles of Department of Natural Resource designated trout streams. As a cold water species, trout are sensitive to warm stream temperatures. Establishing trees in riparian buffers is widely recognized as a significant tool for stabilizing stream temperatures and improving trout habitat.

Riparian forest buffers (RFBs) provide other benefits, as well. They filter sediment, nutrients and pesticides, thus preventing movement of these nonpoint pollution sources downstream. Trees in the buffer zone provide woody debris for the stream, an important component of trout habitat. The woody roots also help stabilize stream banks and help with flood control.


Extension Publications on Riparian Forest Buffers and Trout Habitat Improvement:

  • Benefits - How forest buffers improve trout and wildlife habitat, stream water quality and provide income opportunities.
  • Design - How to identify objectives, design a forest buffer and select appropriate vegetation.
  • Establishment - How to prepare a site, plant vegetation and protect it from pests.
  • Maintenance - How to manage weeds in the short-term and tree and grass zones in the long-term.
  • Financial assistance opportunities - Identify local, state and federal financial assistance for establishing a forest buffer.
  • Literature Review (584 K PDF) - A comprehensive review of papers and research studies about aquatic habitat improvement by establishing riparian forest buffers.

Vermillion River demonstration

University of Minnesota Extension and the Department of Natural Resources established a forest buffer demonstration along the Vermillion River, a designated trout stream in Dakota County.

Several different tree and shrub species were planted in a random design to mimic a natural forest. As the buffer matures, changes in stream temperature and trout population will be monitored. Additional funding for this project was provided by the Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization.


tree planting line drawing


4100 220th St. E., Farmington, MN  55024 (map link)

Contact Information

Phyllis Bongard, Extension Educator
Agriculture Production/Water Quality
University of Minnesota Extension
Dakota County
4100 220th St. W.
Farmington, MN 55024
Phone: 651-480-7757

Brian Nerbonne
Stream Habitat Specialist
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
1200 Warner Rd.
St. Paul, MN 55106
Phone: 651-259-5786

Gary Wyatt, Extension Educator
University of Minnesota Extension
Mankato Regional Office
1961 Premier Dr., Suite 110
Mankato, MN 56001
Phone: 507-389-6748

  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy