Coastal dune lakes are both rare and home to a multitude of wildlife and plant species. But what’s the best way to protect them? Brandy Foley, who studies coastal dune lakes for the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, has a number of suggestions:
1. If you live within the Coastal Dune Lake Protection Zone, follow the low impact restrictions for building, construction, and property maintenance to reduce negative impacts to the coastal dune lakes.
Specifically, less than 40 percent of the lot should be impervious (built on or paved), and no more than 50 percent of vegetation can be cleared. Additionally, homeowners should avoid clearing or mowing along the water’s edge. The required 100-foot set-back acts as a vegetated buffer, reducing stormwater runoff impact to the lake. Maintaining this vegetation filters pollutants and nutrients that could harm water quality.
2. Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers on your lawn and plants.
The base of most pesticides and fertilizers are nitrogen and phosphorus which can cause an excessive increase in nutrients, polluting the water. If homeowners plant native plants, they are more resilient to the regional climate and do not require fertilizer or pesticide applications.
3. Remove invasive plants from the edge and interior of coastal dune lakes, as they decrease the natural biodiversity levels.
In fact, invasive species are impeding lake outlets within some coastal dune lakes, which changes the frequency of the outfall events themselves and the quality of the water in the lakes.
4) As with the beaches, visitors should leave only footprints, pick up trash brought along on trips and clean up debris encountered.
Often, plastic pollution enters the coastal dune lakes through the lake outlet from nearby beaches.
5) Support organizations like the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance!
CBA conducts monthly water quality monitoring, invasive species removal and annual research on the coastal dune lakes. More information can be found at basinalliance.org.
ERIKA ZAMBELLO from Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance contributed to this article.