Riparian means “river bank” in Latin, and riparian forests refer to the plants that grow along the bank of a river. The roots of the plants on the banks of the river prevent large amounts of the soil from being carried down the river as sediment. Riparian forests also reduce the amount of runoff that ends up in the river by absorbing the water and nutrients (such as nitrogen) as well as some pollutants. Not only do they improve water quality and reduce erosion, but they provide food, shelter and nesting sites for many types of wildlife. Excessive development of cities and residential areas near rivers can destroy these riparian forests and significantly reduce the important functions that these forests serve.