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Extension > Garden > SULIS > Design > Shoreland Landscape Design, Maintenance, and Management to Protect Water Quality > Vegetative Buffer Zones

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Vegetative Buffer Zones

In the previous chapter, we learned what watersheds are and how activities within a watershed can have an impact on water quality. But what about direct impacts to lakes and streams from shoreland landscapes? Vegetative buffer zones can play a key role in limiting negative water quality impacts from developed shoreland property.

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Darlene Charboneau

A vegetative buffer zone is an undeveloped area directly adjacent to a body of water. Buffers can be comprised of existing plants on the site and/or new plantings. Buffer zones include aquatic plants in shallow water, moisture-loving plants along the shore, and upland plants in dry soils. The optimal size and design of buffer zones will be discussed in Section 3: Shoreland Design. Appropriate plant selection will be discussed in Section 4: Plant Identification and Selection.

The primary purposes of vegetative buffer zones are to:

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Carrol Henderson

Native plant buffer zones are invaluable for wildlife habitat. A study done in northern Wisconsin looked at the impact to wildlife when natural shorelines were replaced with developed shorelines. Researchers found that the number of frog species, as well as the total number of frogs, was significantly reduced in lakes where native vegetation and woody debris were removed from the shoreline. Many bird species were also lost, particularly those depending on insects for food and those that nest on the ground.

Some additional benefits of maintaining a more natural, vegetated shoreline include:

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spending less time doing yard work and more time relaxing.

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Carrol Henderson
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Carrol Henderson

In addition, a native plant buffer zone can create a more aesthetically pleasing shoreline for you and your neighbors to enjoy.


Resources For Additional Information On Vegetative Buffer Zones

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

University of Minnesota Extension University of Wisconsin Extension Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Stormwater Center
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