Coastal Ecology—Riparian Areas

Summary: Much of the health of the total watershed depends on the health of the uplands and riparian areas. In the activities below, students collect and interpret data from classroom models or through field investigations to discover how physical parameters of riparian areas may affect adjacent aquatic environments.

Concepts to teach: Riparian, interconnectedness, habitat

Goals: Students practice scientific inquiry and data collection to determine relationships between riparian and aquatic environments.

6.1P.1, 6.3S.1, 6.3S.2, 7.3S.1, 7.3S.2, 8.3S.1, 8.3S.2

Specific Objectives: Students will:

  1. Conduct a classroom experiment to determine the effect of solar radiation and shade on aquatic environments.
  2. Conduct a field investigation to search for patterns between the physical characteristics of riparian areas and adjacent streams.
  3. Describe the influence riparian zones have on aquatic environments.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • The 550-page Stream Scene curriculum is available in .pdf format on the ODFW website, and covers a variety of watershed topics.
    • The chapter Riparian Areas contains several lessons that focus on watershed health, including:
      • Made in the shade, p. 179—Students demonstrate the effect of solar radiation and the role vegetation plays in keeping streams cool.
  • Salmon Watch curriculum—Lessons in Unit 2 cover field trip planning and implementation, including:
    • Introduction to Riparian Areas 2.24 – 2.34—Use this background information, data tables and graphs to see how physical parameters of streams relate to the presence or absence of aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish.
    • Riparian and Aquatic Area Survey 2.43-2.53—Protocol to explore the riparian area of a stream and identify and discuss differences in the components of the observed riparian area.


  • Honoring our Rivers—The Honoring Our Rivers student anthology project showcases Oregon student writing and artwork focused on rivers and watersheds. From poetry to prose and fiction, from illustration to photography, students from across the state submit their work to a juried-review process and finalists appear before the public in an annual anthology and at exhibits, events and readings hosted by Honoring Our Rivers.
    • Address a local watershed issue in a piece submitted to Honoring our Rivers.