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Bank Erosion Control, the Importance of Buffer Zones and Buffer Plants

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Mar 14, 2017

Written by Industry Experts Brandon Tindley and Greg Blackham, Aquatic Specialists

Have you seen the banks of your lake or pond slowly recede and retreat year after year? Have you noticed soil and silt deposits building up along the shoreline? Does the average water depth of your waterbody get shallower each year? The erosion you are seeing is the natural, yet unwelcoming process of bank erosion. This is especially problematic in man-made lakes as nature utilizes gravity to level everything out. With erosion comes the mobility of additional pollutants into your water including nutrients, chemicals, and additional pathogens. When you combine all these factors, erosion can contribute to an overwhelming amount of stress factors on water quality, wildlife balance, and functionality. In most cases, the easiest and most cost effective measure to help prevent bank erosion is by creating a vegetative buffer zone. This should also be the first consideration when designing a long term solution to an existing bank erosion problem.

The number one benefit of a beneficial vegetative buffer is its ability to act as a natural filter for runoff. The longer and wider the buffer zone extends, the more particles it can slow down, intercept, and settle before reaching the pond. Vegetation can also protect the bank from rain impact erosion. Rain drops that hit bare soil can displace a lot of soil in a short amount of time. Another critical defense a buffer zone can provide is protection from wind and wave erosion. Plant roots can also help hold soil together whether it is along the shoreline in the water or even upland.

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Topics: Water Quality/Nutrient Remediation, Buffer Management

Protecting Your Shorelines Through Bank Stabilization

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Mar 01, 2016

Written by Industry Expert John M. Phelps, III, Environmental Scientist and Regional Director

06_bank_stabilization_e.jpgWater is the most powerful force on earth. Year after year, wet weather events cause property loss and result in significant remediation costs.

Calm-water banks and shorelines around lakes, ponds and stormwater basins erode at a gentler rate than coastlines and river banks because the water has a lower velocity. Common causes of calm-water bank and shoreline erosion include rainwater sheets flowing over unprotected areas, high-traffic spaces where people and animals are accessing the water and small-wave action caused from wind.

Proper bank stabilization is one of the easiest methods to protect calm-water shorelines. There are many shoreline stabilization methods, like the use of rock, synthetic materials, vegetation, or a combination of the above, with varying results and costs.

Rock effectively dissipates the velocity of moving water and is ideal for foot traffic. Stone, rock and rip rap come in various sizes. Choosing the correct type of rock and size is as important as the correct technique for placing the rock. Larger stone is more expensive, so protecting a long stretch of shoreline could go way over budget. Small stone can migrate and cause future problems if placed in areas of high flow.

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Topics: Pond Management Best Practices, Buffer Management

Pond Buffer Zones: Creation and Benefits

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Jul 09, 2015


AS SEEN IN North Carolina Turfgrass Magazine, May/June 2015: Written by Industry Expert David Ellison, Aquatic Biologist with SOLitude Lake Management

NC_Turfgrass_Buffer_Zones_First_Page_06.15_e-1Establishing buffer vegetation has long been known to help stabilize the shorelines of lakes and ponds. While ponds and lakes are often vital sources for irrigation and a challenge to the golfers, the idea of providing aesthetics to these features is sometimes secondary for many golf courses. Increasingly, however, “natural” landscapes have become important features in golf courses and horticulture, as many people enjoy features without a “human influence.”

Benefits of buffers

In addition to increasing the aesthetic value of your course, establishing appropriate landscaping along lakes and ponds can provide long-term benefits. For instance, buffer zones along aquatic banks serve to reduce the transport of nutrients and sediment through the system and out to the watershed.

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Topics: Pond Management Best Practices, Buffer Management

Pond Management: Harnessing the Power of Beneficial Plants Around Your Pond

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Jun 08, 2015

AS SEEN IN The Golf Course Trades, June 2015: Written by Industry Expert Gavin Ferris, Ecologist, SOLitude Lake Management

Buffer_Button_2RiversCC-16Tee_eKeeping a golf course’s pond in a pristine and presentable state can often be challenging and a lot of work. Bank erosion, suspended sediment, nutrient runoff, wind-blown trash, and hordes of potentially destructive geese can easily turn a waterbody into a muddy, green, slimy, stinky mess. In contrast, when you see a beautiful pond or lake in a natural setting, a healthy ecosystem is working to balance out all of these potentially destructive influences. Controlling all of these problems artificially may require multiple herbicide treatments, labor intensive cleanup and expensive repairs. Why do so much work yourself, when the plants that you want to be there are willing to do so much of it for you?

Many pond and lake issues start on land. Surface runoff from rain and melting snow causes bank erosion and transports sediment and nutrients into the water. Excess nutrients and sediment lead to pond algae, weeds and turbidity. Geese graze on terrestrial plants, sometimes causing turf damage, and then transfer those nutrients to the water in their droppings. Allowing the shoreline area to develop a community of taller, diverse native plant species can help to protect your waterbody from these harmful influences. These plants slow runoff to prevent erosion while absorbing nutrients. This band of vegetation around any waterbody – a pond, lake or even a stream – is called a buffer zone. And, it is the single most effective means of protecting your course’s ponds from surface runoff.

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Topics: Pond Management Best Practices, Buffer Management

Top 5 Reasons to Have a Beneficial Vegetative Buffer Around Your Pond

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Nov 20, 2014

Written by Industry Expert Kyle Finerfrock, Environmental Scientist

Kinsale_Glen_2_Buffer_Rehoboth_Beach_DE_Greg_06.24.14_contest_winner_cShoreline vegetative buffers surrounding a pond can be a great natural enhancement to the aquatic environment. Allowing a proper vegetative buffer to grow is a proactive way to increase the lifespan of your waterbody and help improve the overall health of your pond.

• Buffer zones improve water quality and prevent pond algae blooms by filtering excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen from entering the water column.

• Beneficial vegetative buffers help to maintain shoreline stability and prevent erosion and sedimentation.

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Topics: Buffer Management

Pond Management: Winter Buffer Trimming and Brush Removal

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Nov 11, 2014


Kinsale_Glen_2_Buffer_Rehoboth_Beach_DE_Greg_06.24.14_contest_winner_cIt is important to take a close look at the vegetative buffer zone that surrounds your waterbody as the winter season approaches. Buffer zones are often an overlooked aspect of pond management and the function of the buffer is significant to the overall health of the pond. When rain water drains through parking lots, streets and then grassy areas, the water will have accumulated a significant amount of nutrients that will lead to pond algae blooms. Without a buffer the water will continue to flow across the grass unimpeded and nutrients will only be filtered by the grass before it reaches the pond. Established tall grasses will do the most effective job of filtering nutrients because they have a strong root system and can sequester nutrients quickly.

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Topics: Aquatic Weeds and Algae, Buffer Management

Make Room for Monarchs: Add Milkweed to Your Vegetation Management Plan

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   May 22, 2014

Written by Ecologist, Gavin Ferris

monarch_butterfly_on_milkweed_flowerNo insect is more iconic to North America than the Monarch Butterfly. School children collect caterpillars and keep them in their classrooms to watch them spin their chrysalises and transform into butterflies. Through a multi-generational migration, the adults travel from as far as New England to Mexico, where they overwinter in large colonies; thousands of individuals clustered together on tree branches. Throughout their range, one plant is critically important for the entire monarch butterfly population. The flowers of the milkweed plant are an important source of nectar for the adults, and the caterpillars depend on milkweed as their sole food source.

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Topics: Pond Management Best Practices, Buffer Management

Proper Buffer Management For Your Lakes And Ponds

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Jul 19, 2013

AS SEEN IN Commonwealth Crier, Virginia Golf Course Superintendents Association, Summer 2013: Written by The experts at SOLitude Lake Management

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Maintaining dense beneficial vegetation around your lake or pond is extremely beneficial for improving water quality, preventing erosion and controlling nuisance geese. This area is commonly referred to as a buffer zone and it is recommended that your landscape company leave a 3-5 foot section above the water level unmowed so that it can grow and benefit the pond. When rain water drains through parking lots and streets and then grassy areas, the water will have accumulated a significant amount of nutrients that will lead to lake and pond algae blooms. Although a short manicured buffer may look aesthetically appealing, the cultural practice that is the healthiest for lakes and ponds is to allow the native grasses and other beneficial flowering species to grow to maturity, while selectively controlling the non-beneficial and unsightly species that may also grow in these areas if left completely unmaintained.

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Topics: Published Articles, Buffer Management

The Key to a Successful Shade Garden: Plan Before You Plant

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Jun 10, 2013

By Sandy Phelps, Garden Design Consultant

DSC06040It is a common misconception that it is not possible to have a lovely, colorful, low maintenance garden in a shady yard. Some of the most memorable gardens I have visited have been in partial or complete shade.  The most important thing to keep in mind before you begin to create your dream garden is to plan before you start. A few basic steps are all it will take to create a shady nook that will take your breath away.

When I first moved into my current house the “garden” was a small forest with no shape or color and overtaken by invasive plants. The first winter I observed the yard and noted certain things. Where were the sunny areas, wet spots and shady nooks. What animals and birds visited my yard? Where was the best and worst soil? Only after I took these factors into consideration did I make a plan – a plan that I have worked on bit by bit over thirteen years.

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Topics: Buffer Management

Pond Management: Buffer Zone Scalping

by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Oct 30, 2012

By Industry Expert Greg Blackham, Aquatic Specialist

This is a subject I have wanted to write about for some time.  More and more as I drive past various communities I’ve noticed an unhealthy trend in the way that riparian buffer zones around ponds are being mowed.  In some instances I get this slash-and-burn feeling, almost as if the purpose of the buffer is not understood, and its very existence is shunned and should be hidden.  I have to remind myself that when most people move in to a community, the purpose of the pond buffers is not completely understood.   Unless residents specifically ask about the purpose, it is presumed the buffer is an area of poorly managed weeds and chaos.  In the extreme this might be the case, yet even a wild jungle-like pond buffer would be better for the pond than no pond buffer.

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Good buffer before destruction

At SŌLitude Lake Management, we have written many newsletter articles on why riparian buffer zones are important, so I will just briefly refresh the subject.  I am more interested in illustrating the beauty and bio-diversity that comes with a large, healthy, and verdant system, even if it only changes a handful of peoples’ perceptions. 

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Topics: Buffer Management

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