Riparian or river bank vegetation is the zone with vegetation along the shores of streams, rivers and wetlands. Healthy riparian vegetation is comprised of trees, bushes and tall tussocks that cast shadow over the water and stabilize the shores.
Natural, narrative riparian vegetation on banks is an important habitat for terrestrial and amphibian animals. The high tree tops make shadow and reduce the water temperature, thus ensuring good life for fish and water animals. Trees are also habitats of many species of mammals and birds. Big and deep roots stabilize the soil and maintain the banks.
The greatest threat to riparian vegetation is animal husbandry. Cattle can easily destroy the vegetation with grazing and stomping, while animal feces could change the chemical composition of water and soil.
The management of riparian vegetation and its protection improves water quality, prevents erosion and protects species.
The destruction of riparian vegetation directly increases water temperature, which destroys river fauna and changes river flora. All this results in lower quantities of oxygen in water and greater possibility for the spread of invasive plant species resistant to higher temperatures.
Greater erosion, on the other hand, demolishes banks, muddies the water and thus destroys the spots where animals nest or breed. The most important thing is that the destruction of riparian vegetation affects rivers’ capability for self-purification. This is a natural process of river purification through mechanical and physical processes. The branches, roots and trunks of riparian vegetation are necessary to collect the waste material while it moves through water.
Riparian vegetation is one of the most endangered ecosystems in Macedonian rivers and lakes. Due to poor management of forest areas and farming practices, a large part of the riparian vegetation is damaged or significantly reduced. That is why one of the activities of the Nature Conservation Programme in North Macedonia is to improve the situation in protected areas in the Bregalnica river basin by improving the state of riparian vegetation and increasing the surface it covers.