Riparian communities are those that exist on or near the bank of the river. These plants are the ones we typically see in floodplains. The Gorge has several different kinds of riparian communities. Some exist in almost desert-like conditions, where soils are dry and well-drained because they are gravelly. Wet bottomland forests of moist, rich soil support other types of communities.
In the Potomac Gorge, there are six types of globally rare riparian communities. Riparian habitats, like most habitats, are defined by three conditions:
When you walk the trails, the Potomac Gorge will come alive for you if you learn to recognize these shifts in communities—sometimes subtle, sometimes vivid.
Non-native and invasive plants are perhaps the biggest threat to the survival of the Gorge’s native riparian communities. Like aggressive weeds in a backyard garden, invasive plants can completely overwhelm an entire ecosystem. Another threat, which compounds the damage by non-native plants, is the over-abundant deer browsing in these fragile riverine habitats.
Last updated: April 10, 2015