River banks and the areas around them have their own plant life, which is called riparian vegetation. It forms a characteristic border that follows the course of the river. Riparian woods include a wide range of flora and fauna. This plant life has an important role in the ecosystem, and acts as:
The resource page has an identification key to help you identify riparian vegetation.
Large-leaved lime or linden
Blackthorn or sloe
The river headwaters have species adapted to cold temperatures and steep slopes.
Riparian vegetation specific to Mediterranean areas is characterised for its ability to survive very dry summers and highly variable precipitation throughout the year, and even over several years.
Species adapted to extreme drought situations are found in rain-fed and ephemeral rivers, due to their ability to cope with a prolonged lack of water and their resistance to sudden rainstorms.
Plant life that has adapted to high levels of saltwater may be found in some wetland areas and lower river stretches.
Human intervention (wood cutting, earthmoving, etc.) and other disturbances give invasive species the opportunity to settle on river banks. These species are a significant threat, as they replace native species and may cause important changes to the riparian environment. They sometimes form mono-specific populations without any natural value. Invasive species need to be controlled and more importantly, new introductions need to be prevented.
*Invasive species are considered to be those that proliferate in an area in which they are not native and where they have appeared due to the actions of Man.
Illustrations: © Toni Llobet