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Riparian areas constitute the margins of land adjacent to perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral rivers, streams, lakes, and other bodies of water, including estuarine areas, which experience at least periodic submergence. They are transition zones between aquatic and terrestrial systems, distinguished by gradients in biophysical conditions and ecological functions between the different systems. Linear in form, riparian zones range from narrow strips of land several feet wide in arid regions, to large swaths several miles wide in wetter climates. They are comprised of three main components: stream channel, wetland, and flood plain, the latter delineated by the frequency and extent of inundation (for example, 100-year floodplain). They are regions of high productivity, species diversity, and density, conditioned by their specific climatic, biotic, geographical, and geological context.

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