Abstract: Riparian areas occupy a unique location within the landscape as transitional areas between aquatic and upslope terrestrial ecosystems. These areas are valued for their high biodiversity and the wide range of functions, processes and ecosystem services they provide. Hence, their importance often exceeds the proportion of space they occupy within the landscape. While afforestation of steep and highly erodible catchments provides the opportunity to enhance both the financial and non-financial benefits from this land, the riparian areas have the potential to contribute to non-financial ecosystem services. Headwater areas have the highest density of stream and riparian areas and comprise a large percentage of total stream length in many catchments. This paper outlines some of the key functions and benefits provided by forested riparian areas in steep headwater catchments. Because of their location in the landscape, forested riparian areas also have the potential to deliver a range of beneficial ecosystem services to downstream users. Also, well-planned riparian areas established at the afforestation stage will assist in minimising the impacts of forest management activities on waterways, particularly during end-of-rotation harvesting operations. Under the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) (New Zealand Government, 2017), afforestation is prohibited within certain distances of a waterbody and setback distances are outlined in the Standards. Possible options for forest restoration for protection purposes within these setback riparian areas in steep headwater catchments are discussed. (no keywords)
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