Healthy well vegetated shorelines do more than just attract wildlife. Shoreline plants also work hard to improve water quality. Plants use the nutrients that would otherwise wash down into a stream or pond. They intercept excess nutrients leaching from unmaintained septic beds or excessive fertilizer. The deep reaching roots of shrubs and trees growing along shorelines not only shade and cool shallow waters, but they also hold on to soil better than mowed grass with its short stubby roots, preventing it from being washed away by rain or waves. If too many nutrients and soil are washed into the water they can cause excessive algae growth and deplete oxygen, causing fish to suffer. Shoreline vegetation also works to moderate peak flood events by soaking up water like a sponge. That’s a lot of hard work!
A great deal of wildlife habitat and the foraging opportunities have been lost in our region and around the world. All the environmental services provided by healthy vegetated shorelines are lost when landowners alter them, often unknowingly. Mowing all vegetation right to the edge of the stream or building concrete retaining walls along the waterfront is destructive to the shoreline ecosystem degrading water quality and forcing fish and wildlife to move elsewhere in search of food and shelter. However, this is a problem landowners can address, starting in their own back yards.
This is the second of a 3 part blog about the value and importance of natural shorelines. Interested in creating a natural shoreline on your property? You may be eligible for up to $1,500 in grants! Find out more about our Healthy Shorelines – Clean Water Stewardship Program at “http://www.ltc.on.ca/stewardship/hscwsp/.
Written by: Ewa Bednarczuk, Ecology & Stewardship Specialist with Lower Trent Conservation