The banks along Fort Wayne’s rivers serve multiple purposes. Vegetation controls erosion, and helps filter water. Other impermeable areas help with runoff, and control flooding. We continue our series "The Three Rivers" with an explainer on an important, but often overlooked feature: riparian buffers.
Riparian buffer strips are the vegetated land along the river bank, separating the city, from the water. At one on the north side of the Maumee River around Anthony Boulevard, I met Betsy Yankowiak of Fort Wayne’s Little River Wetlands Project.
She says it’s important for native plants to grow here.
Native species are just as they sound – native to the region or state. Their roots run a lot deeper than other vegetation.
“Those roots allow the water to infiltrate down to the ground water system," says Yankowiak, "or also helps keep bank stabilization happening along our ditches, creeks, and rivers.”
Vegetation here can also help filter and naturally cleanse runoff from streets and homes, before it reaches the river. But invasive species can impede that process. They can spread rapidly, taking areas where native plants once thrived. They can also completely alter delicate ecosystems, and their root systems can destabilize levees.
Peeking up through the snow we spot lots of troublesome honeysuckle plants – a recent study showed invasives like honeysuckle dominate Fort Wayne’s riparian vegetation.
Lastly, Yankowiak says “trees are important for stream bank stabilization, and so by removing the trees, you thereby allow more erosion to happen.”
Yankowiak says it’s crucial to protect biodiversity, and working to keep native species along the rivers is one way to make that happen.