The vegetation in watersheds affects the quality of the water. Grasses, shrubs, and trees make up the majority of plant cover. As they fall and decompose, they add the organic components to the soil. Trees are the protectors of the watershed. The tree litter protects the soilís surface as the roots of the tree protect the soil from erosion. Trees also provide a canopy that keeps the water cool so organisms donít die of thermal pollution. The canopy can also reduce the force of the rain and the velocity of wind in a watershed.

Plant cover is important to a watershed to prevent the erosion of valuable soil as water rushes downstream. Plant cover also provides food and protection for many small organisms.

The green zone along a stream ecosystem is called a riparian area and has several unique properties. Riparian zones have the capacity to buffer rivers and other waters from runoff from agricultural, urban, or other areas. Healthy riparian zones can absorb sediments, chemical nutrients, and other substances contained in runoff.

Riparian areas provide all the components needed for a wildlife habitat including food, water, and cover. Diversity of organisms living in these wetland areas is very high. A riparian habitat includes three areas depending on the influence of water. The aquatic area refers to the area that is the stream channel or pond. The organisms that live in this area must be adapted to a wet lifestyle.

These following lesson plans can help your identify and learn about the diversity of organisms along Mission Creek.

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