Riparian buffers are areas filled with vegetation around waterways such as lakes, rivers, wetlands and streams. They assist in soil stabilization and filtering potential pollution from runoff.
Whenever it rains or snow melts, all that water travels downhill to the nearest waterway. On its journey it can collect things like road salt, fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides that can disrupt the vulnerable aquatic ecosystem of the waterway.
If a riparian buffer is present, the vegetation can help filter out pollutants and the root systems help percolate water into the soil instead of going directly into the stream or lake.
Our major waterway on campus, the Yellow Breeches, eventually empties into the Susquehanna River, which becomes the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay. So, whatever harmful pollution that enters the Yellow Breeches from campus will ultimately enter the Chesapeake Bay. That is why it is crucial we do all we can to maintain the health of the Breeches in order to protect it for those who live and work in and around the bay.
One way Messiah has worked to protect the Yellow Breeches is by planting trees in areas near streams on campus. The Office of Sustainability has partnered with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to plant over 600 trees on campus in the last year and a half in locations such as Cemetery Hill, the ravine behind the library and behind the baseball field.
These trees will help clean runoff water, revitalize the soil and sequester carbon from the air. By improving the land health of our campus, we are helping the Yellow Breeches improve. We are also protecting the people and waterways downstream of us.
This spring the Office of Sustainability is adding another grove of trees, this time above the baseball field. This planting will create a food forest that will include all native tree species that produce edible products, such as persimmons, sugar maples and American chestnuts. By replacing a manicured lawn with a native forest, we are creating new habitat for campus wildlife, reducing the amount of fertilizer we use and helping to protect our campus waterways.