Altered Streamside Vegetation

Altered streamside vegetation negatively impacts instream and streamside habitat and destabilizes stream banks. It involves the removal or modification of a waterway's naturally vegetated banks. Common causes of this type of impairment include the removal of trees from stream banks and/or the mowing of stream banks. In agricultural areas, destabilization can result from animals grazing on and trampling streamside vegetation.

Healthy stream bank vegetation has many benefits. It provides:

  1. A buffer zone that prevents pollutants from urban or agricultural stormwater from running off into a waterbody.
  2. Roots that hold banks in place, preventing erosion and siltation.
  3. Flood mitigation.
  4. Habitat for fish and other aquatic life.
  5. Canopy that shades the stream or river. This shading maintains naturally cool water temperatures critical to temperature sensitive species. Cooler temperatures also prevent excessive algal growth, which in turn prevents the occurrence of harmfully low dissolved oxygen levels.
  6. A food source for aquatic invertebrates that eat fallen leaves and for fish that eat insects falling from trees.
  7. Optimal streamside habitat consists of mature vegetation extending 35 to 100 feet from both banks of the stream.

How You Can help

Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact the Cumberland River Compact if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.

If you live or work next to a waterway, leave a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on its banks. Allow natural and native plant growth in this buffer area or plant native trees, bushes, and groundcover. This vegetation can filter pollutants before they reach your waterway and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Native plants and grasses require less watering and fertilizer and also provide important habitat for native species of wildlife.

Resources include:
1) Free trees for Tennesseans during TEC's annual statewide 100K Tree Day - TN Environmental Council
2) Tennessee Aquatic Stream Clean Up and Riparian Tree Grant (Scroll to bottom of linked page for more info) - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
3) General Guidelines for Volunteer Based Riparian Buffer Plantings - TN Environmental Council
4) Improving Stream Channels With Live Staking - UT Extension
5) Tennessee Urban Riparian Buffer Handbook - TN Dept. of Agriculture
6) Landscaping with Native Plants in West, Middle, and East TN - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
7) Native Plants for TN - UT Extension
8) Forest Stewardship Program and Landowner Services - KY Division of Forestry
9) Plant Availability Guide - KY Department of Agriculture
10) State Nurseries and Tree Seedlings - KY Division of Forestry

Excluding farm animals from this waterway and providing them with alternative sources of water can prevent animals from trampling streamside vegetation and defecating in the waterway.

Resources include:
1) Natural Resources Conservation Service offers a number of programs that can provide technical or financial assistance to landowners interested in employing agricultural best management practices. Potential programs may include: the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Conservation Technical Assistance Program, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
2) Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund - TN Department of Agriculture
3) Water Quality Best Management Practices Calendar - UT Extension
4) Habitat How-To's provides information for adopting common habitat management practices when developing an overall farm plan - KY Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
5) Equipment Loans - KY Division of Conservation
6) State Cost Share Program - KY Division of Conservation
7) Beneficial Conservation Practices for Farmers - Harpeth River Watershed Association

Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official and let them know this is concern or invite them to speak about the impairment with your home-owners association. When elections come up, vote for candidates who will address the problem and hold them accountable to their promises. Support local watershed / environmental associations.

Resources include:
1) Advocacy Toolkit - TN Environmental Council
2) Find Your Legislators - Federal Legislators; State Legislators (KY/TN); Local Legislators (KY/TN)

Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the problem? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.