This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.
How’s the health of your shoreline these days? Look at the signs.
It often stems from a lack of native shoreline vegetation and too much boat wake too close to the shore. To help, live-stake the bank with stabilizing plants, such as willows and red osier dogwood. And tell boaters to get out of your shoreline’s grill.
Healthy: Lots of frogs and turtles
Amphibians are especially sensitive to toxins and habitat disturbance, say the experts at Watersheds Canada. An abundance of amphibians means that your shoreline is giving them a stable home.
Healthy: Woody debris, fallen logs, and brush along the water’s edge
This makes a transition zone that turtles and other critters can use to move from water to shore and provides a resting place for waterfowl. It also helps to buffer any boat wake.
Unhealthy: A manicured lawn
Or any lawn. Lawns are useless as habitat for almost anything except Canada geese and golf balls. The solution is to stop mowing—or at least stop mowing right to the water’s edge (leave a buffer strip; the bigger the better, if possible).
Healthy: Root systems growing within the water
They create hiding spots for fish and other lake-dwellers.
Unhealthy: Alien invaders
Strong shorelines have a variety of native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, and vines. If you have invasive plants, contact your local environmental ministry or invasive species council for advice. (And if you don’t know what common invasives look like—quick, to the Internet!)
Unhealthy: An unbalanced shoreline
Are you using more than your share? According to Watersheds Canada, we should leave 75 per cent of our shoreline natural and untouched and take only 25 percent for boating and swimming. Or else it’s just plain greedy.