Lake Health Tips

A Buffer of Native Plants
Preserving a natural buffer of native plants is one of the best ways to protect a lake. Shoreline plants filter sediment and chemicals from runoff, provide food and shelter for fish and wildlife and can slow or prevent shoreline erosion. Shade from overhanging shrubs and trees can keep waters cool and oxygen-rich while limiting the growth of unwanted aquatic plants.

Established lake buffers are best left undisturbed. Even where a lake’s natural plant cover has been removed or damaged, a buffer can usually be restored. An ideal buffer should be at least 20 feet wide, planted with an assortment of native trees, shrubs and groundcovers. Paths or walkways to the lake should remain small so as to minimize shoreline impacts. A lake-friendly landscaper can suggest ways to optimize lake vistas while retaining shoreline vegetation. Low-cost native plants can be obtained from several local suppliers.

Keeping Your Lake Chemical-Free
Fertilizers and pesticides may provide a “quick fix” for lawns and gardens, but can have long-term impacts on the health of a lake. Both can be carried by wind and rain from lawns and gardens into lakes, with significant consequences for aquatic life.

Reducing the use of pesticides protects lakes and contributes to a healthier environment for fish, wildlife and people. Chemical fertilizers, especially phosphorus, can stimulate plant growth in your yard as well as in the lake. Nutrients are all too easily washed from land surfaces into ditches and streams or directly into lakes, where they can feed aquatic plants and cause nuisance algal blooms. Organic fertilizers such as composted animal manure, commercially prepared organic soil additives or composted food and garden waste will break down slowly and improve the make-up of garden soils. Composting also keeps garden wastes out of lakes and puts it to good use through recycling.

If you do fertilize the lawn, remember that less fertilizer more often is better than a single, large application. Apply plant or lawn fertilizers only when plants show a need – not because you are following a schedule.

Don’t Feed the Ducks
Although ducks and geese are great at conning you into feeding them, this activity is unhealthy for them and has health consequences for people as well. Feeding the ducks and geese can make them dependent on us for food; a source that isn’t as healthy for them as native plants and foods. It can also unnaturally increase their population numbers, and cause them to stop migrating. This winds up being bad for us when large groups of non-migratory waterfowl cause swimmer’s itch or fecal contamination at your favorite swimming beach. These large groups can also contribute phosphorus to the lake through their feces, sometimes causing algae blooms. So remember, let the wildlife be wild, and Don’t Feed the Ducks!

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