Healthy soils and healthy waterways

Forests and vegetated land act like a sponge, holding rainwater and releasing it slowly after nutrients have been absorbed. In this way, plants and their soil foundation act cooperatively to protect waterways from sedimentation and nutrient overload. If your soils are healthy, with the proper air and water filtration and absorption, your plant roots will be healthy and hold the soil in place. But if your soil becomes compacted, plant roots will not be able to expand or extract nutrients, so the plants will lose vitality and the soil will lose the root structure that helps hold it in place. Storm water, rather than being absorbed on the forest floor, will run off the soil surface and into streams, picking up sediment, excess nutrients and any pollutants that may be in its path.

Credit: Shutterstock

You can help prevent soil erosion and polluted waterways by:

  • Avoiding compaction by heavy machinery
  • Designing woodland roads, parking lots and trails to drain into the forest and other vegetated spaces, not waterways
  • Planting trees and shrubs as a buffer around waterways
  • Planting native shrubs, grasses and wildflowers rather than lawn
  • Anywhere you have bare soil, cover it, use silt fences, and seed as soon as possible.
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