Vegetative Buffer Zone Functions and Benefits

February 24th, 2012

Written by Industry Expert David Ellison, Aquatic Biologist

describe the imageStormwater maintenance will typically include recommendations about buffer management and what is needed for the buffer around the pond. Often pond owners and those who live around a pond or lake will know that a buffer is good for the pond, but not the dynamics as to how a buffer benefits in the filtration of water, nutrient reduction, erosion control, goose control and mosquito control.

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.Studies have shown that buffers will be most effective at removing nutrients beginning at three meters wide and even wider buffers will do a better job at filtering nutrients.Although a short manicured buffer may look aesthetically appealing, the cultural practice that is healthy for ponds and lakes is to allow the native grasses to grow and remove the non-beneficial species that will reduce the ability of the grasses to filter the nutrients.

What are some of the main benefits of vegetative buffers?

Maintaining a healthy stand of plants within the buffer will also allow for the root system to become well established and lower the risk of erosion.Routinely cutting the buffer zone, scalping the turf along the pond banks and allowing trees to grow in the buffer can all lead to erosion and additional nutrient loading.This will lead to the addition of sediment, increased algae, and the shallowing of the pond over time.

Geese can be a nuisance problem around ponds, often establishing nests and remaining for many years. One of the most effective practices to reduce or eliminate geese is to maintain a healthy, dense, tall buffer. Geese will often go to another body of water rather than deal with the difficulty of accessing a pond or lake that has an established buffer that does not allow a line of sight to the body of water. Buffers will also provide habitat for numerous non-threatening species and mosquito-consuming predators.

Having a healthy, beautiful pond in your community will give families a place to fish and increase home values.Buffer zones are often an overlooked aspect of the aquatic habitat and the function of the buffer is significant to the overall health of the pond.Establishing buffer zones is a simple practice that will provide great results for the health of the waterbody.

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David Ellison is an Aquatic Biologist with SOLitude Lake Management. Since 1998, SOLitude Lake Management has been committed to providing full service lake and pond management services that improve water quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental footprint. Services are available throughout the Eastern United States. Fisheries management consulting and aquatic products are available nationwide. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at


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