Date of Graduation

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Aviva Rossi


Riparian corridor protection through zoning ordinances is a common best management practice to protect riparian ecosystems and function. These zoning ordinances protect riparian ecosystems by establishing setback distances where land use activities are prohibited. While management of protected riparian corridors are widely studied, recommendations for riparian corridor width vary and are often site specific. The variability of corridor widths presents a challenge to riparian corridor implementation, in addition to balancing economic needs with natural resource protection. This study evaluates the effects of land use on riparian corridors and compares the Riparian Corridor Combining Zone ordinance in Sonoma County to other government agencies and scientific literature recommendations for riparian corridor management, specifically width recommendations. In Sonoma County, the dominant land use categories throughout the county are agricultural cultivation and urban development. Agricultural cultivation and urban development alter stream channels, increase erosion, impair water quality, modify riparian vegetation, and threaten aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. To protect riparian areas and adjacent habitat form land use activities, Sonoma County adopted the Riparian Corridor Combining Zone ordinance. The Riparian Corridor Combining Zone ordinance implemented riparian corridor widths within the range recommended by other government agencies and scientific literature for optimal riparian function. However, the ordinance allows exceptions for agricultural cultivation, which may influence the effectiveness of riparian corridor functions. Recommendations for riparian management in Sonoma County include an assessment on the current condition of riparian ecosystems, a new policy based on science that provides consistent riparian protection for all development types, increasing public education on the benefits of riparian ecosystems, and encouraging riparian restoration through incentive programs and new development projects.