Planting Trees in Riparian Buffer Zones

Site Suitability

This action can only be selected on a Riparian Buffer Zone-Grassland or Riparian Buffer Zone-Arable whole parcel or split parcel.
Tree planting options are not permitted in NPWS designated sites (SACs, SPAs, NHAs, pNHAs), landscapes targeted for breeding waders such as curlew, or within an archaeological monument buffer zone.


  1. Select a Riparian buffer zone where tree planting will benefit water quality.
  2. Select the Riparian buffer zone(s) for planting trees by drawing one point on the zone. Then enter the number of trees that will be planted on the chosen zone(s) in the quantity box provided.
  3. The minimum number of trees to be delivered is 10 and the maximum number that can be delivered is 200.
  4.  Planting of trees must be completed by 31 March 2024.
  5. Plants must be of Irish Origin or Irish Provenance and purchased from DAFM registered professional operators.
  6.  All plants purchased for this action must have an accompanying plant passport and participants must ensure that they retain the plant passport(s) for the duration of the contract.
  7. Purchased trees must be a minimum of 60cm in height.
  8. Plant at least 2 species from Table 1. below.
  9. Do not plant in the vicinity of overhead wires, within 20m of railway lines and within 60m of a neighbouring dwelling house. See Table 2. for clearance distance for overhead lines.
  10. Fit each tree with a staked tree shelter, minimum 75cm in height, and protect trees from livestock damage with appropriate fencing (fencing is a requirement in the Riparian Buffer Zone Grassland action, temporary fencing may be required to protect trees in the buffer if grazing an arable parcel).
  11. Grass and competing vegetation must be controlled around the trees annually. It will be necessary, from time to time, to lift the tree shelter and remove any weeds/grass that may be growing within the shelter.
  12.  Failed or dead trees must be replaced during the next dormant season.
  13. There must not be more than 200 trees planted per hectare. For example, in 0.1 hectares, the maximum trees to be planted is 20. The minimum spacing between trees is 2 metres.

Additional Guidance

  • Plant native species that already grow in local riparian areas. Plants should be of native provenance where possible.
  • Trees should be pit planted in a vegetation free area. Clear the area prior to planting so plants are planted on a weed free area (less than 1 metre in diameter).
  • For pit planting a spade is used to dig a hole and the tree’s roots placed in the centre. Soil is placed around the tree and firmed in, ensuring that it is upright and straight.
  • Spacing will depend on the direction of the watercourse as planting needs to avoid over-shading the stream/river. See examples below
  • Unmanaged riparian areas are very susceptible to non-native invasive species e.g. Himalayan balsam, Giant hogweed. Monitor the riparian buffer and carry out appropriate management/removal of non-native invasive species where necessary.
  • In arterial drained catchments, OPW require certain banks to remain free of trees. Contact OPW if unsure whether this may apply to your farm or to seek guidance on channel width

Table 1 – Native Species

Common name Scientific name
Alder Alnus glutinosa
Silver birch Betula pendula
Downy birch Betula pubescens
Pedunculate oak Quercus robur
Goat willow Salix caprea
Grey willow Salix cinerea
Bay willow Salix pentandra

Table 2. The required clearance distance depends on the voltage of the overhead line

Power line type Clearance distance (from centre of line)
Low voltage (230/400V) 5 m
10 kV and 38 kV 10 m
110 kV 31 m
220 kV 34 m
400 kV 37 m
Note: All trees must be outside their falling distance from line support structures.