Juneau, Alaska (KINY) What's so special about the riparian zone was the subject of Wildlife Wednesday at the Mendenhall Valley Library November 1st.
Restoration Biologist for the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition John Hudson explained the riparian zone is the river banks vegetation transition zone and a critical habitat to fish in the region.
He discussed local water bodies like Montana Creek, Mendenhall River and Jordan Creek. The zone compares to a circle of life with trees providing fuel and
food into the water, it creates fungi and bacteria, they feed insects who then feed birds bats and spiders who become food for fish.
The presentation also included discussion of a bear study on Prince of Wales Island. Biologists placed GPS collars on 40 bears and followed them for one year. The bears spent an enormous amount of time around the riparian zones even when salmon spawns were over.
Hudson also spoke on the damage timber and logging did to riparian zones and habitats over the years. He noted the US Forest Service now has imposed more protections on trees.
Hudson said a study showed that even fallen trees have a benefit to streams and creeks. In Washington State a study found summer fish populations increased by 80 percent and winter fish by 320 percent. Hudson said a study will be released soon on Jordan Creek and efforts to repair the riparian zone. He said groups have added vegetation and trees on the Mendenhall River in an effort to repair the riparian zone and stop erosion.
About 50 people were on hand to listen to the hour long presentation.