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Natural – Beneficial Functions of Floodplain

Natural & Beneficial Functions of the Floodplain

Importance of Floodplains:  Floodplains are the areas adjacent to rivers, lakes, ponds, and oceans that are periodically flooded at different points in time.  They contain both cultural and natural resources that are of great value to society.  Floodplains are hydrologically important, environmentally sensitive, and ecologically productive areas that perform many natural functions.  Flood water can carry nutrient-rich sediments which contribute to a fertile environment for vegetation.  Floodplains are beneficial for wildlife by creating a variety of habitats for fish and other animals and are also important because of storage and conveyance, protection of water quality, and recharge of groundwater.  

Coastal Floodplains:  Marshes, near-shore ocean bottoms, beaches, bays, coastal dune lakes, tidal flats, and estuaries are all components that make up the coastal floodplain of land from the destructive coastal storms, such as hurricanes.  In coastal systems, aside from major storm events where waves may overrun large areas, inundation follows a largely predictable tidal cycle.  Coastal floodplains are recognized for their importance to estuarine and marine fisheries. 

Riverine Floodplains:  Riverine systems vary in steepness, width, flow, sediment deposition, and erosion.  These riverine floodplains typically flood during the spring buy tarte subject to periodic flooding due to excessive rainfall.  The floodings bring erosion and deposition of soils and can determine considerably the shape of the floodplain, the depth and composition of soils, the type and density of vegetation, the presence and extend of wetlands, richness and diversity of wildlife, and the depth of groundwater.  The major flood component of a riverine system is the floodway.  Flood ways are defined as the area of the watercourse that is necessary to carry the base flood without increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot.  Development is heavily regulated in flood ways areas, Riverine systems are important habitat for a variety of fish, reptiles, vegetation, and fur-bearing wildlife.  These systems provide feeding and breeding ground for these species.   

Benefits to Humans:  Floodplains provide cultural, educational, recreational, and scenic values to humans.  The earliest Native American settled in and around floodplains, as the provided a wealth of food and provided the easiest means of travel.  Consequently, Floodplains include many archaeological and historical sites.  Floodplain’s also serves as a nature study center for scientific research.  Due to the scenic value that they provide, Floodplains are ideal locations for parks and campgrounds.  Water-oriented sports and recreational activities such as observation, recreational hunting, and fishing.  Natural Floodplains are valuable in providing the “wilderness experience” that is an important part of American culture. 

 Summary:  The importance of maintaining natural Floodplains is not a difficult idea to understand.  However, humans have always been affected by Floodplains because of their many sustain attributes.  Human development and industrialization take a toll on the natural functions of the Floodplains.  Development in the floodplains causes decreases in water quality, loss of wildlife habitats, and an increase in severity and frequency of flood losses.  Understanding the importance of maintaining the natural functions of floodplains can lead to better floodplain management approaches that will better protect the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains.  

Resources: The following resources and links can provide a better understanding of the importance of maintaining Floodplains: 

New Jersey Association of Floodplain Managers

Association of State Floodplain Managers

The Highlands Borough is a member of New Jersey Association of Floodplain Managers and is committed to education, actions, and activities supporting a sustainable community striving for Community Rating System (CRS) certification for our residents.