What does the term ‘living shorelines’ mean to you? Living shorelines refers to a unique part of the ecosystem that is a Ribbon of Life. And what is not alive is providing for life in some other way. Whether it provides shelter, shade, or protection, a diverse array of features (plants, logs, trees, stumps, and rocks) play a vital role in a maintaining a healthy “living” shoreline.
A living shoreline provides valuable erosion control through plant root systems that penetrate deep into the ground, holding the soil in place. Those same roots that provide bank stability will also filter sediment and nutrients from runoff that would be harmful if it entered into lakes, rivers, creeks, wetlands, and ultimately, the ocean.
Without a vegetated shoreline, runoff (melted snow or rain) runs overtop of the ground and goes directly into the water. Oftentimes, runoff contains harmful pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, sediment, pet feces, road salt, and motor oil.
The plants along a shoreline slow down runoff and collect sediment before it enters a body of water—potentially destroying spawning grounds for fish or clogging their gills.
When runoff has been slowed down, it allows water to percolate into the soil, filtering pollutants and excessive nutrients before they enter into the water. Excessive nutrients entering into a waterbody will accelerate algae growth, leading to harmful effects for the lake and fish. When algae blooms die, they deplete water of oxygen and can cause large numbers of fish to die from a lack of oxygen.
The plants along a shoreline provide erosion control as well as pollution and nutrient filtration; they also are crucial habitat for birds, frogs, snakes, waterfowl, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, slugs, and beetles just to name a few.
Features like fallen logs, rocks, and stumps will attract wildlife to your yard by providing a spot for them to nest, feed, hibernate, store food, and escape from predators. A healthy shoreline will flourish with many forms of life in many different stages of life. Keeping your shoreline natural is the easiest and most cost effective way to live by water. Let’s shape the future of our Cariboo-Chilcotin shorelines together by maintaining living shorelines—the Ribbon of Life!
This article is part of the Cariboo Chilcotin Shorelines Initiative that is taking place in 2015-2017. This initiative is collaborating with appropriate groups, agencies, and other stakeholders to focus on riparian residents to reduce the amount of riparian habitat being impacted by uninformed decisions by landowners.
If your organization has any upcoming events, special occasions, or unique opportunities that could dove-tail with the Cariboo-Chilcotin Shorelines Initiative we would love to partner with you. Please contact Amanda Dreager, shoreline co-ordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250) 992-5833.