Riparian zones have become increasingly important elements of river basin ecohydrology given their relevance of nutrient dynamics to water quality management. Most attention has been given to nitrogen cycling, denitrification in particular, but new processes have emerged as potentially important and need to be evaluated. Riparian zones are sensitive locations, so it is important to understand the impact of changes that can fundamentally alter their ecosystem processes and responses. Better understanding of how riparian buffering varies in time and space provides the basis for a catchment-scale approach, but it seems likely that low-order basins will remain the focus for research and management, given that low-order basins constitute the majority of basin area. Finally, it is argued that new ecohydrological indicators are needed that combine innovative biogeochemical parameters and landscape connectivity measures. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.