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.
What are some benefits of a vegetative buffer?
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.
A robust, healthy buffer can further provide a variety of other benefits and landscaping bio-diversity. Nuisance levels of geese infestation are less likely to occur in waters surrounded by wide, thick buffer zones. This is because the geese are fearful of predators lurking in the vegetation and this trepidation deters them. A diverse buffer zone full of a wide variety of native plants can also help encourage a healthy population of native pollinators, songbirds, butterflies, and other desirable wildlife. Another added bonus is that a wall of vegetation can form a great blockade to windblown garbage that would otherwise end up polluting the waterbody. The cherry on top is that a well-designed buffer adds beauty to your aquatic ecosystem and enhances the view and overall aesthetics of your lake or pond.
What are the most important characteristics to consider when designing a high-functioning vegetative buffer?
To settle out the soil particles, the primary consideration of a buffer is width and at least 3-5 feet is recommended. The buffer zone needs to be able to slow down the soil so that it can infiltrate or percolate into the upland areas or bank, as opposed to running directly into the pond. If geese deterrence is also an objective, then plant density and height is encouraged to close any large gaps or pathways to the pond. Furthermore, plant species should be considered for long term sustainability and bio-diversity. Choose a variety of native plants, keeping in mind aspects like flower color, wildlife value, growing conditions, and survivability for your specific region. In areas where only a small buffer can be created, the focus should be more on an abundance of native grasses and keep out invasive trees, vines, and nuisance broadleaf weeds through regular maintenance.
At the end of the day, any amount of vegetation between soil mobility and surface water will be beneficial, even if it is just a strip of grass. There is a direct correlation between input and output when it comes to buffer zone construction and subsequent water quality. The buffer zone is the first and sometimes only filter opportunity that property owners have complete control over when it comes to water management. It also serves to protect the shoreline and upland areas from erosion. If designed well, a vegetative buffer zone can actually be an amenity to the surrounding landscape and provide joy to humans and wildlife alike.
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond and fisheries management needs.
Brandon Tindley is an Aquatic Specialist at SOLitude, and provides clients in the Mid-Atlantic region with sustainable solutions for the management of their aquatic resources. Brandon is a certified aquatic pesticide applicator in Delaware and has attended both AquaMaster and Otterbine Fountain and Aeration Service Schools.
Greg Blackham is an Aquatic Specialist who services ponds and properties in the Mid-Atlantic territory. He has worked in the lake and pond management industry since 2007 and has extensive experience with Integrated Pest Management strategies for nuisance vegetation control. Greg has been an integral part of projects involving all facets of lake management, including ecological assessment, aeration, aquatic landscaping, structural inspection/repairs, bathymetry and dredging.
SOLitude Lake Management is committed to providing full service lake and pond management services that improve water quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental footprint. Lake, pond and fisheries management services, consulting, and aquatic products are available nationwide. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at www.solitudelakemanagement.com.