Reduction of stream sediment concentration by a riparian buffer: filtering of road runoff in disturbed headwater basins of montane mainland southeast Asia

J Environ Qual. 2006 Jan 3;35(1):151-62. doi: 10.2134/jeq2005.0103. Print 2006 Jan-Feb.


We determined the extent that a riparian buffer reduces stream suspended sediment concentrations by filtering road runoff during 18 rain events in a 2.5-ha, multi-use watershed in northern Thailand. The dominant buffer species was the perennial sedge Fimbristylis aphylla Zoll. ex Steud. (Cyperaceae). We monitored stream sediment concentration for situations where road runoff either flowed into the riparian buffer or was diverted directly into the stream (buffer and no buffer scenarios). These data were used to develop the following relationships between instantaneous stream sediment concentration (Ci) and discharge (Qi): Ci= 28.329Qi(0.851) (buffer scenario) and Ci= 22.265Qi(1.579) (no buffer scenario). Using these functions to calculate total event suspended concentrations, we determined that the buffer reduced suspended sediment concentration by 34 to 87%, for the range of events monitored. Removal of sediment from runoff generated on a 2.4-m-wide, 165-m-long unpaved road section was achieved principally via ponding, which reduced the transport capacity as flow entered the relatively flat, saturated buffer. Sediment deposition occurred primarily within the first 10 m of the buffer. Some sediment was also deposited on the fillslope leading to the buffer. Maximum road sediment concentration during the largest buffer event approached 100,000 mg L(-1). Meanwhile, the corresponding maximum stream suspended sediment concentration was <4000 mg L(-1). In contrast, maximum stream concentrations when flow bypassed the buffer during smaller events were commonly 4000 to 7000 mg L(-1). Naturally occurring buffers represent an economical means of mitigating road-related impacts in upland basins in Southeast Asia, particularly if combined with measures limiting sediment and runoff production on contributing road sections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Asia, Southeastern
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical