Forestry on peatland throughout the world is now focused on minimising destructive effects to the surrounding environment, especially during harvesting. These effects may be mitigated through the use of well-developed riparian buffers zones (RBZs). However, much of the commercial forestry planted in Ireland and the UK in the mid-20th century was planted without adequate RBZs. The creation of new RBZs prior to clearfelling may be a possible mitigation measure in these circumstances. The aim of this paper was to assess the nutrient content and phosphorus (P) adsorption capacity of the soil, and survival of planted saplings in a RBZ, positioned downslope from a standing forest and partly covered with brash mats, five years after its establishment. Dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) concentrations were significantly higher under the brash mats in the RBZ when compared to all other areas. The standing forest had the highest concentrations of ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N), while total oxidised nitrogen (TON) was similar for all areas. Water extractable phosphorus and desorption-adsorption testing also confirmed the high concentrations of P under the brash mats, but P did not leach through the peat to the stream. The overall survival rate of the saplings was relatively high, with over half of Quercus robur (oak) (57%), Sorbus aucuparia (rowan) (57%) and Betula pendula (birch) (51%) surviving. Salix cinerea (willow) (22%), Alnus glutinosa (alder) (25%) and Hex aquifolium (holly) (44%) did not survive as successfully. The RBZ was capable of providing nutrients for the survival of planted saplings, fertilizing the peat with degrading brash material and preventing elevated levels of nutrients entering the adjacent aquatic ecosystem. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.