Importance of Buffers




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IMPORTANCE OF BUFFERS

Why are buffers important?

Homes and residential neighborhoods are a major source of water pollution. Impervious surfaces, such as paved areas, roofs, compacted soil, and even lawns do not allow precipitation to percolate through the soil. Instead, most of the precipitation flows over the land (runoff) picking up pollutants as it travels to the nearest waterbody. Potential pollutants include sediment, lawn fertilizers and pesticides, heavy metals and oil from roads and driveways, pet waste, and numerous other substances we don't want in our water.

Impervious surfaces, such as paved areas, roofs, compacted soil, and even lawns do not allow precipitation to percolate through the soil.
Impervious surfaces, such as paved areas, roofs, compacted soil, and even lawns do not allow precipitation to percolate through the soil.

In a perfect world, most of these pollutants would be filtered out of runoff by vegetation such as grasses, shrubs, and trees. Vegetation slows down runoff so that pollutants and sediment can settle out of the water and remain trapped, leaving cleaner water to continue on its journey through the watershed. As vegetation is removed from lakeshores and streambanks, polluted runoff flows directly into our waterbodies.

To make matters worse, we seem to have a penchant for removing as much vegetation as possible from around waterbodies in order to enjoy unfettered views and park-like lawns. Without vegetation numerous problems develop:
  • Erosion.
    Runoff filled with sediment will scour streambanks and lakeshores and can cause excessive erosion and destabilize banks.

  • Flooding.
    Without plants to slow the runoff and utilize groundwater, flooding can occur.

  • Algae blooms.
    Fertilizer-laden runoff will cause algae to thrive in the water, just as it makes your lawn thrive. As the algae dies off, it robs the water of dissolved oxygen, resulting in fish kills.

  • Damage to fisheries.
    Removal of trees along streams exposes the water to sunlight, warming the water, and stressing fish. Excess sediment ruins fish spawning areas.

  • Loss of wildlife habitat.
    Wildlife and birds flock to edge-habitats. Without riparian vegetation, this valuable habitat is non-existent.

  • Loss of privacy.

Without an ample vegetative buffer, pollutants from this campground on the Seneca River will degrade water quality.
Without an ample vegetative buffer, pollutants from this campground on the Seneca River will degrade water quality.

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Updated: March 8, 2010