Historically, forested riparian buffers have been created to provide protection for aquatic organisms and aquatic ecosystem functions. Increasingly, new and existing riparian buffers are being used also to meet terrestrial conservation requirements. To test the effectiveness of riparian buffers for conserving terrestrial fauna, we conducted a meta-analysis using published data from 397 comparisons of species abundance in riparian buffers and unharvested (reference) riparian sites. The response of terrestrial species to riparian buffers was not consistent between taxonomie groups; bird and arthropod abundances were significantly greater in buffers relative to unharvested areas, whereas amphibian abundance decreased. Edge-preferring species were more abundant in buffer sites than reference sites, whereas species associated with interior habitat were not significantly different in abundance. The degree of buffer effect on animal abundance was unrelated to buffer width; wider buffers did not result in greater similarity between reference and buffer sites. However, responses to buffer treatment were more variable in buffers <50 m wide, a commonly prescribed width in many management plans. Our results indicate that current buffer prescriptions do not maintain most terrestrial organisms in buffer strips at levels comparable to undisturbed sites.
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