What is a buffer?
buff·er 1 [búffr ] noun (plural buff·ers)
1. protector against impact
2. RAIL device on train or track
3. CHEMISTRY substance maintaining pH
4. COMPUTING memory area
A buffer in the conservation sense is just as it is described in the first definition. It smoothes the transition between two types of areas. In some cases, it can be the protector against impact from a particular area or treatment.
You hear a lot of discussion about conservation buffers. Typically, they are strips of vegetated (i.e. trees, bushes, grass, etc.) land bordering streams. But, buffers can also be other things. For example, a buffer can be the area between a playground and a warehouse. It can also be the strip of land between row crops and the road.
Functions of a Buffer
- Decrease the velocity of rain water, thereby slowing down flooding affects
- Filter pollutants heading for the stream including sediment, fertilizer, industrial waste, petroleum products and other
- Shade stream water and reduce the temperature, allowing aquatic habitat to flourish
- Provide wildlife habitat
- Reduce erosion of the stream bank
Appearance of a Buffer
Have you ever noticed the area along creeks in your town? It usually looks like trees and plants that people have forgotten about. Over time, this area along streambanks looks unmanaged. That area is a buffer.
Buffers often look "over-grown" or unkempt. While they don't necessarily look "manicured," natural-looking buffers serve as fully functioning filters that pull out pollution that would otherwise end up in the stream.
In addition, the longer the grass blades and the more leaves on the trees in the buffer, the potentially more storm water the buffer can hold. This helps us out when excessive rain would normally flood the streams.
Ways to provide buffers in your yard:
- Plant a row of trees to act as a windbreak and to give you privacy.
- Plant a border strip around your yard of shrubs and mulch to trap fertilizer on your property before it ends up in the storm drain.
- Buffers can be any vegetated areas that provide a transition from one type of area to another type.