Forested Riparian Buffers as Climate Adaptation Tools for Management of Riverine Flow and Thermal Regimes: A Case Study in the Meramec River Basin

Jason H. Knouft, Alejandra Botero-Acosta, Chin-Lung Wu, Barbara Charry, Maria L. Chu, Anthony I. Dell, Damon M. Hall, Steven J. Herrington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ongoing and projected changes in climate are expected to alter discharge and water temperature in riverine systems, thus resulting in degraded habitat. Climate adaptation management strategies are proposed to serve as buffers to changes in air temperature and precipitation, with these strategies potentially providing relatively stable protection for flow and thermal regimes. Using a hydrologic and water temperature modeling approach in the Meramec River basin in eastern Missouri, U.S.A., we examined the ability of forested riparian buffers to serve as a useful climate adaptation strategy against ongoing and projected changes in climate. We developed a multi-scale approach using Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) hydrologic and water temperature models as well as a Stream Network Temperature Model (SNTEMP) with different amounts of simulated riparian vegetation to estimate streamflow and water temperature variation within the Meramec River basin under both contemporary and projected future climate conditions. Our results suggest that riparian buffers offer benefits to mitigating increases in water temperature due to shading effects; however, patterns in discharge did not vary substantially based on simulations. From an ecological perspective, the addition of riparian buffers is also projected to reduce the impacts of climate change on Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) by decreasing the number of days water temperatures exceed the thermal tolerance of this species.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1877
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021


  • climate change
  • SWAT
  • water temperature model
  • hydrologic model
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • water temperature
  • hydrology
  • Water temperature model
  • Water temperature
  • Climate change
  • Hydrology
  • Hydrologic model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

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