A buffer is an area of land between developed property and the lakeshore where trees, shrubs and ground cover plants are allowed to become established, or are manually vegetated with appropriate (preferably native) plants. The best or ideal buffer for ecological and water quality value is a combination of tall trees, shrubs, groundcover and duff.
Lawn grass alone cannot protect the lake and associated shoreline. Grass roots are shallow and are unable to filter out sediment and NPS (non-point source also know as storm water run-off) pollution during rainstorms. While a well-maintained lawn may be a wonderful asset to your property, a buffer between the lawn and the water’s edge is essential to remove the nutrients and slow down the storm water runoff and absorb it before it reaches the lake! You can check out your own property with LakeSmart, a free educational and evaluative program of the DEP.
Components Of A Good Buffer
This upper canopy intercepts raindrops. By breaking the fall of these tiny water bombs, soil erosion is reduced. Trees provide shoreline habitat for wildlife, shade for your house and keep the water cool. Their deep roots take hold of the soil, protecting it from erosion and slumping. Lower tree branches can be trimmed for people who prefer to have an unobstructed view of the lake, but more tree braches mean better lake protection!
The second obstacle raindrops hit on the way to the ground is shrubs. Shrubs provide wind protection and birds love to take refuge in them. Their roots also hold soil in place. Shrubs are a great noise barrier and are low growing so they will not obstruct a view of the lake.
Vines, grass and flowers slow down surface water runoff and absorb nutrients and other non-point source (storm water runoff) pollution. Their roots hold onto surface sediments. Groundcovers that flower can create accents of color with a variety of green backdrops. They also provide habitat for such insects as butterflies and honeybees.
Allow vegetation and woody materials to stay where it falls. Accumulation of plant matter on the ground acts like a sponge, absorbs water, traps sediment and prevents erosion. Duff hosts microorganisms that improve soil by breaking down and recycling plant material into nutrients to be used in the growth on new plants.
Information provided by Lake A Syst: A publication of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
The LakeSmart Program can assist you in your efforts to preserve this heritage.