Arbor Day was last Friday. And when I think of trees, I think of fishing. (Bear with me.) Trees, and other plants for that matter, are an important aspect to many great fisheries. Though often overlooked, trees aide with the conservation of fisheries well before they are even water logged.
Structure such as flooded timber, stumps, brush, “lay downs”, or “blow downs” are highly sought after by anglers of bass and crappie. Every year, leftover cut Christmas trees are submerged by lake managers all over the country. In this way, trees provide protection from predators, as well as substrate for microorganisms to grow and contribute to the food chain.
Here are three ways trees help with conservation:
1) Shade. Cooler water temperatures mean greater dissolved oxygen in water. This can be critical for sensitive species like trout or darters.
2) Shield. The pounding force of hard rainwater on soil diminishes greatly when it splashes into leaves first, and then drips down to the ground.
3) Security. Soil erosion is combated by tree and plant roots, especially grasses. With soil held securely in place, there is less silt washed into the system and fewer runoff nutrients are carried with it, which can lead to oxygen-depleting algal blooms.
Shoreline plantings, such as buffer strips and wetlands, slow water movement during storm events, allowing much of the dirt carried to settle before it can be deposited in the final destination. Watersheds lacking these natural filters may risk excessive siltation. Too much silt and poor water quality can be detrimental to spawning and can lead to population crashes.
A professor in limnology (study of freshwater) once said that it was the unfortunate fate for any body of water to become filled with silt. This is evident on a small scale with farm ponds, which may have a lifespan of 20 years or so, before they must be dug out again. Trees and other plants within a watershed are insurance that this does not happen for a long, long time.