Leaves from Native Trees – The Foundation of Freshwater Ecosystems
Virginia Wildlife Magazine published my article “Fish Need Leaves” in their Jan/Feb 2015 issue. More information about Virginia’s premier wildlife magazine can be found here: www.dgif.virginia.gov/virginia.wildlife
Excluding livestock from streams is a first big step for agriculture in restoring water resources and complying with the law that the US Congress passed in 1972 – The Clean Water Act. The next step and the one that will reap the most benefits is to restore forests along the banks of the streams. Here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed establishing riparian forest buffers is perhaps the most important and most cost-effective BMP to achieve a restored Bay. It’s part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
Streamside, native forests provide many ecosystem services such as stabilizing stream banks, shade to cool the water in the stream, habitat for wildlife and carbon sequestration but perhaps the most profound and the one often overlooked is that the leaves from our native trees, when they fall into the stream become the foundation of the aquatic food chain.
A healthy aquatic ecosystem is capable of processing 2 to 8 times more pollution than a stream flowing through non-forested streamsides. This is according to scientists at Stroud Water Research Center. I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Bernard Sweeney, Senior Research Scientist at Stroud, for Virginia Wildlife Magazine. The article was published in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue.