Lakes provide a unique situation when considering a vegetative buffer.
The planting of vegetation in the riparian area of a lakeshore is very
similar to planting along a stream, yet an additional element needs to
be considered-the vegetation in the lakeshore shallows. Lakeshore property
owners often consider the vegetation along the shoreline to be weeds or
nuisances. Yet it actually serves to protect water quality, the quality
of your beach, and fish and wildlife habitat. Lakeshore vegetation can
be managed in a way that allows recreational activities and a beautiful
Value of Lakeshore Vegetation
There are three main categories of lakeshore vegetation, including emergent
vegetation (partially underwater or in water-saturated soils), floating
vegetation, and submergent vegetation (underwater). Each of these types
plays an important role in helping to protect water quality and provide
a complex habitat for fish and wildlife.
- Emergent vegetation helps
reduce the impact of waves, wind, and boat wakes on the shoreline. Without
vegetation, the water's force against the shoreline can cause erosion
problems and cloudy water. The flexible stems of emergent vegetation
absorb and slow the energy of the waves and wind, thus protecting the
- Submergent vegetation helps
stabilize the lake sediments and reduces wave action that disturbs sediments
and creates cloudy water.
- Vegetation in general, helps
with water quality by both absorbing some contaminants entering the
lake from stormwater runoff and helping particles settle rather than
staying suspended in the water column.
- Complex vegetation provides
habitat for fish and wildlife. This habitat is used by a variety of
fish, amphibians, and birds for feeding, nesting, protection from predators,
and raising young.
Deterring Nuisance Species
Canada geese are common in the Lake Whatcom watershed. While these are
beautiful birds, they leave many not so beautiful "surprises"
behind them. Lawns that stretch down to the lakeshore are paradise to
Canada geese, which are grazers. Lakeshore buffers of tall, dense vegetation
generally deter Canada geese-they prefer open areas where it's easier
to spot predators.
Creating a Scenic View
You may be concerned that you would lose your view if you plant along
the shoreline. Shoreline plantings can actually enhance your view of the
lake. If carefully planned, riparian vegetation can be used to frame your
view of the your view of the lake, block an unwanted view, or increase
the colors, fragrances, and number of birds and other wildlife throughout
Access to the Lake
Buffers along the lakeshore can be designed to meet your lake access needs.
Although a lakeshore buffer should be designed to cover at least 34 of
your shoreline, it can still allow access to the shoreline while protecting
water quality and wildlife habitat. Figures 2,3 and 4 illustrate one option
for adapting a traditional lakeshore property to a more water-friendly
Steps for Riparian Buffer Planting | Buffers
Are Not a Cure-all >>