by Emily Brown, Muskoka Conservancy
The wide-open lake laps at the feet of the rocky outcrops, topped with wind-swept white pines. The shoreline silhouette is immediately recognizable as Muskoka, and for many of us, highlights fond memories of summer days by the lake.
Looking out over the water, it is clear how Muskoka’s shores draw international attention for tourism as well as residents who want to be as close to the lakes as possible. We are here because we enjoy the environment Muskoka provides us. That means we are dependent on the health of the lakes and maintaining their distinctive visual appearance. But with people comes development, and efforts to maintain natural shorelines can be a battle, particularly after many have landscaped down to the water’s edge.
The first thirty metres of land along the shore (riparian zone) and the shallow water (littoral zone), act as a line of defence for lake health. Like a shield, native land and aquatic plants form root systems holding soil in place as water moves along the shore, reducing erosion and siltation. Like a sponge, the roots hold water, releasing it during dry spells. And as a filter, the vegetation stops pollutants, such as fertilizers and pesticides, from reaching the water and producing algal blooms. The combination of excess nutrients from run-off, and excessive heat from a loss of shade are the recipe for poor water quality, causing closed swimming areas and public health advisories.
Known as “the ribbon of life” or “the living edge”, the riparian and littoral zones feature a habitat that is a necessity to 90 per cent of aquatic life and 70 per cent of land-based animals who need continuous natural shoreline for breeding, feeding and protection from predators. Pulling out threads causes the Ribbon to begin unravelling. Removal of plants from these zones accelerates erosion and removes shade which destroys fish spawning beds. For land animals, the lack of continuous cover removes the protective travel corridor that many species rely on in their journeys between land and water.
Muskoka has been gifted with more than two-thousand lakes and the ribbon of life ties it all together. We can express our gratitude for this gift by learning more about, and acting on, local initiatives that protect shorelines. Muskoka Conservancy, with the support of its members, helps to protect over 52,000 feet of natural shoreline on Muskoka’s big lakes. By choosing to act on protecting Muskoka’s shorelines, you are protecting the health of our lakes, and all of Muskoka’s inhabitants.
Emily Brown is the administrative assistant with the Muskoka Conservancy. Plain and simple, our mission is nature conservation in Muskoka. We envision a healthy, resilient Muskoka that conserves natural spaces for our own and future generations. To achieve our mission, Muskoka Conservancy is a registered charity and a Canadian corporation that operates as a land trust. That means we acquire ownership of properties and legally registered agreements with private property owners to protect land for nature conservation.
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