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Home grown Bio-Engineering!

Conservation Conversations

Willows and Dogwoods provide erosion control and provide habitat for fish.

Willows and Dogwoods provide erosion control and provide habitat for fish.

Fall is coming and the leaves on the trees and bushes are just starting to turn yellow. The white ash were first to show some signs, now I see some maples in my area turning. It won’t be long before we have the full spectrum of fall colors. What a great way to start the day, admiring nature’s slide show. Cows and turkeys in the pasture and deer eating under the wild apple trees, all in view, while we look out a window over morning coffee.

As the day length grows shorter, it signals the trees and bushes that winter is on the way. The plants start to undergo a dormancy preparation process. The willow leaves will start turning yellow. As a fisherman and stream restoration guy, the yellow leaves get me thinking about bio-engineering and fish habitat.

In the past many civil engineers would use concrete, rebar and large stone in various projects to control erosion. In many places this type of stream stabilization is required due to high velocities and steep banks. However, due to costs and a greater understanding of the stream morphology process, woody materials along with live plants are being considered more and more.

Bio-engineering is a mix of hard core engineering along with biological methods. The bio in bio-engineering means biological. This means we utilize plant species such as willow and dogwoods along with other trees to help stabilize road and stream banks.

For the “do it yourselfer,” stream side landowners, who wish to stabilize their stream banks, bio-engineering is perfect. Using willow and dogwood plants in the form of cuttings, fascines, stakes and posts can make a seemingly complicated and expensive process simple and low cost.

Once the willows in your area turn yellow, it means that they are going into winter dormancy. This means that all the carbohydrate storage for their roots has been completed. The plant has stored enough energy to get through the winter, so taking cuttings will not harm the plants.

Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at rangeric@nycap.rr.com.

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