Soil and Water

Trees on farms regenerate soil and protect water

Trees planted along waterways stabilize the soil and slow runoff during heavy rain. Riparian buffers are strips of permanent vegetation planted along waterways that reduce erosion and retain nutrients in the soil during floods. Learn more about how trees are being used for soil health and water quality.
A wide river with trees and cliffs.

Riparian Forest Buffer Infosheet

  • Learn about the benefits and challenges of planting natural buffers along waterways
  • Learn about the benefits and challenges of planting natural buffers along waterways
  • Free to print for events, classrooms, or office literature
  • Available in English, Spanish, and Hmong

Our Research

Lowery Creek on our Spring Green Campus is one of only two “heritage breed” brook trout populations that exist in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. The Savanna Institute supports the Lowery Creek Watershed Initiative by monitoring stream health as part of its Research Program.

Ecosystem Science

Our Ecosystem Services Team monitors water and soil quality to quantify agroforestry’s impact on the ecosystem. At demonstration farms in Wisconsin and Illinois, we’ve dug 100 cores each one meter deep to track soil carbon. This research will help inform standards for how climate mitigation is quantified across carbon markets.


Systems-level Change

Bare fields and annual cropping systems can lead to soil erosion, nutrient loss, lack of biodiversity, and polluted water.

Perennial systems hold soil and nutrients in place, increase biodiversity, and boost water quality.

Assistance For Landholders

Water Quality Program

Planting trees on farms and along shorelines can reduce nutrient pollution in local lakes, rivers, and streams. Our Water Quality Program establishes demonstration farms around the Great Lakes, and shares research and education on the potential for agroforestry systems to meet the challenge of the water crisis.

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Online Courses

Our online agroforestry courses focus on key tree crops and practices, marketing, land access and finances, agroecology, and climate change.