Written By Janet Anderson.

Posted on April 29th, 2021.

Share it!

When Lake Waccabuc needed help fighting erosion and runoff, the Three Lakes Council turned to trees to save the day.

Lake Waccabuc in Lewisboro, NY is beautiful, but like many lakes in Westchester County, it is troubled by nutrients being brought into its water by polluted runoff. This runoff carries phosphorus bound to loose sediments, and is unwanted because phosphorus fertilizes excessive growth of aquatic plants and toxic algae.

image1

Waccabuc Creek is a tributary to Lake Waccabuc that flows through Long Pond Preserve, and the sediment that it contributes to the lake has built a sandy delta that can be seen in this Google Earth picture from 2015 (area surrounded by the yellow circle in the top photo).

In addition to the sediment deposits, the meanders in the creek were intruding into and therefore decreasing the amount of treasured wet meadow adjacent to the creek (area surrounded by the yellow circle in the second photo). This both eroded valued habitat and added more phosphorus-laden sediment to the lake.

image2

To improve this situation, the Watershed Agricultural Council collaborated with the Three Lakes Council, of which Lake Waccabuc is a part, and helped us obtain young, native trees via the Trees for Tribs program. This program plants trees in riparian areas, so through Trees for Tribs we were given appropriate trees and shrubs for our wet meadow habitat.

Our primary goal was to plant trees along the edge of the meadow to stop the creek from eroding, but we also know that as the trees grow, they will shade and cool the shallow stream. This provides better habitat for fish and invertebrates and means cooler water will enter the lake. Warmer lakes are more apt to have algal blooms, so cooler inputs are beneficial for water quality.

Since it is important for wildlife to have multi-leveled forests with low ground cover, understory plants, and a tree canopy, the trees will also provide better corridor and edge habitat for many different kinds of wildlife, making Long Pond Preserve more ecologically diverse. As added bonuses, planting trees helped shade out the invasive bushes that were edging in on the meadow and they help fight climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The first step on planting day was to set out the trees where we wanted them.

image3

Then we planted the trees. We used tree tubes to protect the young trees from deer browse. With all of our volunteers we were able to plant a lot of trees!

image4image5image6image7

Within a few years, the trees were ready to graduate from the tubes to a rigid black frame that protects them from buck rubs. Bucks trying to rub the velvet off their antlers can easily break or girdle a young tree if it is not protected.

image8

Where the banks of the stream were eroding, we hammered in willow stakes. These cuttings taken from a willow tree may just look like bare sticks, but new willows rooted from them. Fast-growing shrubs like this help to stabilize the stream banks while the trees continue to grow larger. When the right trees are planted in the right locations, they can grow quickly!

image9

We visit Long Pond Preserve for annual maintenance and to take pictures to record and celebrate the tree growth!

image10

While these few trees on their own can’t completely stop environmental stressors like climate change and invasive species, they can and do make a difference for Lake Waccabuc. We are pleased that the trees will form a line of defense against erosion as future storms get stronger and the creek rises further.

As the old saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today. We plan to keep planting and stewarding trees at Long Pond for the local and global benefits they provide.


Share it!