Adopt a Zone
Investigate a riparian zone near you. Is there a wide strip of mixed vegetation along the waterway's edge? Is there evidence that a variety of wildlife species live in the area? If not, adopt the area as the site for your green plan. If so, adopt it anyway and become a guardian of a model riparian zone. After you obtain permission from the appropriate authorities, post a sign that informs the public why the area is important for wildlife.
Study how surrounding areas affect your site. There may be a nearby house or industry that uses a lot of pesticides and fertilizers, which run off into a stream, culvert, or ditch. Approach the owner and ask if there is some way to reduce the use of these substances.
What's a Riparian Zone?
Remember that the edges of our waterways — river-banks and lake and ocean shores — and wetlands — the borders of ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens (low marshy or flooded areas) — need attention too. These areas are called riparian zones, and the plants that grow here are called riparian vegetation. This vegetation includes aquatic plants, grasses, shrubs, and trees that thrive on soggy soil. Riparian zones support lots of plant life. They also provide space, shelter, and food for a wide range of wildlife, from minks and moose to mallards and molluscs.
Spruce Up a Shoreline
Areas around streams or ponds support an abundance of wildlife and are an important source of diversity in your neighbourhood. Examine shorelines for signs of human disturbance or erosion. By planting water-loving trees, shrubs, or grasses to help protect the banks, you can also improve habitat for wildlife.
Willow, black spruce, and tamarack trees are good planting choices for riparian zones. Willows thrive in wet places — along streams and river-banks, on bog edges, and in low-lying areas with a high water table. Black spruces grow in almost all kinds of soil but prefer wet, boggy conditions. Tamaracks like cold, wet places such as bogs and swamps. They grow alongside black spruces in open muskegs (level swamps or bogs) and alongside aspens and birches on better-drained soil.
Hawthorn is one shrub that adapts to a wide range of soil conditions but does best in moist to wet sites. And red osier is highly recommended for planting along the edges of ponds and streams because its spreading roots help prevent soil erosion. As well, its thick foliage provides shade, which helps cool water temperatures in summer. This feature is important to the survival of trout.
Mend a Migration Route
Wetlands are vital stopover areas for migrating ducks, geese, and other birds. Some birds travel up to 16,000 kilometres each way during spring and fall migration! And to make these extraordinary flights, they need places to rest and replenish their energy before reaching their final destination.
Imagine how you'd feel driving from Newfoundland to British Columbia without anywhere to stop for gas, rest, and food. You'd never make it! And neither would our feathered friends without healthy wetlands. Find out which migrating birds pass over your area and what their needs are. Is there a wetland nearby that you could protect or improve for them?
Stop Wet Dumps
Wetlands shouldn't be used as dumps, because litter and pollution pose serious hazards to wildlife. Is there a nearby stream or pond where people are dumping garbage? Cleaning it up is one way to help. But why not go further? Your extra effort will mean long-term gains for wildlife. Try these suggestions:
- Find out if there's a community cleanup program you could alert.
- Contact a local wildlife organization for help or arrange a fish habitat improvement scheme.
- Post a weatherproof sign with a message like "No Dumping — Wildlife Area."
- Through local media, inform the community of your cleanup plans. (See "How to Publicize Your Project") Better yet, recruit volunteers to help!
Let the Grass Grow
Many waterfront dwellers cut their grass right to the water's edge, unaware that they're eliminating important wildlife habitat. Try submitting an article to your local newspaper: in it, issue a challenge to waterfront residents to create healthy riparian zones for wildlife.
Make a Pit Stop!
Did you know that abandoned gravel pits and sandpits can provide valuable wildlife habitat? Contact the gravel pit or sandpit owner and suggest how the land could be improved for wildlife or choose a safe site and improve it. Better yet, start a community effort to dig in and change the pit from a barren eyesore to a wildlife haven. Begin by replacing the topsoil that was originally removed during excavation. Then plant a variety of species in different arrangements. Select plants that:
- are compatible with the soil type and climate of the area;
- provide benefits for wildlife;
- are capable of surviving with minimal maintenance; and
- grow sufficiently rapidly to control erosion.
Salmon were once so numerous that everyone thought they would last forever. Today, after years of overfishing, pollution, and obstruction of freshwater habitat, salmon stocks have been seriously depleted. Is there a salmon stream near you that needs to be cleared of debris? Is there one that is being threatened by logging, mining, or industrial and urban development? Are there any local wildlife organizations that could use your helping hand in a salmon habitat enhancement project?
Go With the Grain
Sowing wheat and barley along wetland shores will provide a good source of cover as well as a tasty supply of food. And it's easy to do: the seeds germinate just by lying on top of the soil. Measure the area you plan to plant and get some seed from your local feed and seed store. Ask for some help to figure out how much you'll need. Make sure you let the store know you'll be sowing by hand, just as our ancestors did!
Fight Acid Rain!
Acid rain is precipitation (in the form of rain, hail, snow, or fog) that results when oxides of sulphur and nitrogen react chemically with oxygen and moisture in the atmosphere. The main sources of sulphur dioxide are coal-fired power-generating stations and non-ferrous ore smelters. The two main sources of nitrogen oxides are emissions from motor vehicles and thermal- powered generating stations, which use coal or natural gas to generate electricity. By increasing the acidity of lakes and streams, acid rain kills some aquatic plant and animal life. By damaging trees, it also threatens forest-dwelling wildlife
How is acid rain affecting trees in your area, and how can you help? You might want to write to your member of Parliament and your member of the provincial or territorial legislature to ask what they've done to stop acid rain. Tell them you're concerned about what's going to happen to wildlife, forests, lakes, streams, and rivers in the future.
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