Riparian areas occur wherever the presence of water influences the vegetation, making it distinct from upland vegetation. Riparian areas occur around lakes and wetlands and along streams and rivers. Riparian areas exist in all parts of the Canadian Intermountain, from low-elevation floodplains to high mountain streams, through grasslands and dry forest landscapes to moist coniferous and cold subalpine forests.
Although riparian areas account for only a very small proportion of the landmass, they support disproportionately high use by birds, particularly in arid regions. A number of species are highly dependent on these habitats, and many more use riparian areas for nesting, foraging and migratory corridors.
Riparian areas have suffered a great deal of historic losses to various forms of development. For example, in the Okanagan Valley, 50% to 90% of some riparian communities have been lost, and many of these pressures continue today.