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Healthy Shorelines for Healthy Lakes

Why Shorelines are Important

Green heron

Shorelines are unique and sensitive areas that warrant special attention. Due to their ecological, aesthetic and recreational value, protecting waterfront properties benefits you and the lake. A natural shoreline has important biological functions, including:

  • Acting as a filter, reducing the amount of pollutants that enter the lake;
  • Stabilizing soils and protecting against erosion; and
  • Providing vital habitat for fish and wildlife.

Shorelines are among the most productive environments on earth. The shallow water and first 10-15 metres (30-50 feet) of shore around lakes and rivers provide food and habitat essential to the survival of many species. In fact, 90% of all lake life is born, raised, and fed here. Plants, microorganisms, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and fish depend on the shoreline for survival.

Keeping shorelines natural is also the easiest way to protect water quality and the value of waterfront properties. By filtering nutrients and reducing erosion, the quality of lake water can improve, providing cleaner, clearer water for recreational activities like swimming and boating. Take a look at our Resources page for more information about the importance of shorelines and how to protect them and lake quality.

The Functions of a Healthy Shoreline

  1. Help Maintain Clean Water/Water Quality
    The shoreline vegetation on your property is vital in retaining, treating and filtering surface runoff before it can reach the water.  Runoff is rain and melted snow that runs along the surface of the ground. Runoff can contain pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, manure, pet feces, trash, motor fluids (oil, grease, gas), and road salt.  These pollutants have negative effects on our waterways: nutrients act as fertilizers which stimulate algae and plant growth; pathogens can contaminate drinking water and pesticides can affect insects, fish, and frogs.

  2. Prevent Soil Erosion
    Shoreline vegetation and plants help keep soil in place with their underground root systems and prevent topsoil from being exposed and washed away into the lake or river.  Once in the lake or river, eroded soil can cover over critical fish habitat such as spawning and nursery areas.

  3. Reduce Impacts of Flooding
    Well-vegetated shorelines slow the movement of water downstream, and reduce the force, height, and volume of floodwaters.  This allows the water to spread out across the floodplain thereby reducing the potential for damage to your property.

  4. Provide Wildlife with Food and Habitat
    Shorelines are vital to many different animals throughout their development and life cycle.  Healthy shorelines protect wildlife from weather and predators; woody debris, such as tree trunks or roots in the water provide cover for fish to hide, basking areas for turtles, and resting sites for waterfowl, as well as serving many other important roles in the ecosystem.   

Common Signs of a Healthy Shoreline

  • Lots of native vegetation
  • Different levels of vegetation from taller trees to smaller shrubs and plants
  • Dead trees and stones
  • Birds, fish and other wildlife
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