Marine plants provide important habitat and food for wildlife. Two main types found in the south coast area include eelgrass
, and marine algae, such as kelp
and sea lettuce
. Eelgrass and kelp are structure-forming plants, and support a large number of other organisms, much like "forests" under the sea. A huge array of fish and invertebrates live among these forests, and are in turn preyed upon by marine mammals and birds. Therefore, protecting these plants benefits many other species as well.
How do I protect marine plants?
Prevent Shading by Structures
Like all plants, marine species require a certain amount of light. Structures such as wharves, bridges and docks cast shadows where the plants cannot grow. If you are planning to build such a structure, consider these tips.
- Find out where eelgrass or kelp beds exist near your property, and make an effort to preserve these habitats.
- Share a dock or wharf with a neighbour.
- As much as possible, limit the size of the structure.
- Opt for a pile-supported or anchored structure instead of a fill or slab structure. The former has a smaller "footprint" since it is supported on pilings or floats on the water surface. (See "Shoreline Structures Environmental Design" in the More Information section below)
- Use grating, to allow some light penetration.
Sediment may be washed into streams and the harbours from construction, road-building or logging sites. It causes the water to turn turbid ("murky") and reduces light penetration.
- Large-scale construction near streams and harbours must be carefully undertaken by a skilled professional to limit sedimentation. Interceptor ditches, sediment fencing and sediment control ponds are some methods that can limit sediment that flows into waterways.
- Even small backyard projects can cause sediment to flow into storm drains and subsequently into streams and harbours. Cover exposed earth with a tarp if rain is expected. Replant with grass seed or other fast-growing plants as soon as possible. Consult a professional for advice on projects.
Control & Reduce Water Pollution
Some pollutants, such as heavy metals, are directly toxic to marine plants. Nutrients (i.e. nitrates and phosphates) from fertilizers, sewage and animal feces, can cause explosive growth of microscopic algae, which can colour the water and reduce light penetration.
- The largest source of pollution in the Victoria area is automobiles. Driving less can have benefits for plants and wildlife, your health and your finances. Keeping your vehicle well maintained can limit air pollution and leakage of fluids onto the roads.
- Practice natural gardening techniques to reduce the amount of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that are washed into the streams and harbours.
- Dispose of hazardous household wastes (motor oil, paint, solvents, pesticides, batteries, etc.) at an appropriate facility; see the CRD recycling guide.
- Plant a buffer of native vegetation to intercept runoff from your property, before it enters streams, harbour areas or storm drains.
- Use porous surfaces such as bricks, flagstone, sand or gravel, for patios, walkways or paths. This reduces impervious surfaces, increases infiltration of rainwater into the ground, and reduces the volume that runs off into streams and harbours.
- Practice low impact boating to limit pollution from activities such as fuel spills and boat maintenance.
- Clean up after your pet and dispose of wastes in the garbage or the toilet.
Keep Litter & Debris Out of the Water
Objects large and small can crush and smother vegetation. Participate in local clean-up events to help keep junk out of the harbours.
Try to avoid walking over marine vegetation at low tide. If this cannot be avoided, have group members spread out, rather than forming a trail by walking in single file.
Keep Shorelines Natural
Seawalls and other hard structures alter the natural coastal sediment processes
, and can create inhospitable conditions for marine plants. Try using native vegetation for erosion control.
Get involved with a local community stewardship group that protects and restores marine plants and wildlife.
Report spills Report spills
of toxic (or potentially toxic) substances on land or in water to Emergency Management BC Tel: 1.800.663.3456
Downloadable from the Stewardship Centre
- Shoreline Structures Environmental Design.
- Land Development Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Habitat. Fisheries and Oceans Canada.