Habitat Conservation & Biodiversity

Your Propety as a Habitat


Your property has the potential to offer a variety of complex habitat elements, which provide food and refuge for wildlife. Fallen tree branches, driftwood, rocks, decaying matter and a mixture of aquatic and terrestrial plants all provide living space and hiding spots for insects, birds, aquatic invertebrates, fishes, turtles, frogs, mammals, and other animals. In addition, the connectivity of these elements, particularly along a natural shoreland, joins adjacent habitats and supports wildlife across a basin including breeding, nesting, foraging, and migration activities. However, human disturbances, such as de-vegetation, landscaping, boating, and even noise pollution and night lighting can drastically reduce the complexity and connectivity of habitats along the shore, affecting wildlife across the entire basin. With this, careful considerations must be taken to properly manage, conserve, and improve shoreland habitats.

There are two features to a healthy habitat: habitat complexity and habitat connectivity. You can learn more about these features as well as how the Blue Lakes Program works with participants to manage and conserve habitat on their properties below!

Healthy Habitats

Healthy habitats have two features that make them healthy: habitat complexity, or the variety of a habitat's make-up, as well as habitat connectivity, or the extent to which habitats are connected to facilitate the movement and dispersal of wildlife.

Habitat Complexity

Habitat complexity refers to the number (or "heterogeneity") of living and non-living aspects of a property. Plants at different heights of various species, rock materials, and more all create elements to support native wildlife. At the shoreland, a complex habitat provides rich living spaces for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife as well as a refuge for early forms of life like tadpoles, turtle hatchlings, and juvenile fish and birds. It also mitigates physical threats, such as wave action from boating and increases surface area to support the growth of healthy biofilms like bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. On land, deeply-rooted plants, rocks, logs and decaying debris all provide complex areas for wildlife to thrive in too. Habitat complexity supports much higher diversity and abundance of animals compared to uniform, simple, and developed properties. One of the best ways you can support complex habitats is to leave natural elements in place. Essentially, the “messier” things are, the healthier they are!

Habitat Connectivity

Habitat connectivity is the degree to which native habitats are connected to one another. Because habitats must be connected to be effective for wildlife, what you do on your property can have major impacts on a much larger scale. For example, your shoreland property may provide a critical nesting site or habitat for migratory birds, or provide suitable spawning grounds for fish. Severing this link can have detrimental effects on these species on your property and within the lake basin. Therefore, maintaining a naturalized property that is long and continuous is essential for ensuring habitat connectivity beyond your backyard. This will sustain vital wildlife populations who call your property home as well as provide travel corridors for wildlife.

Habitat Fragmentation


Photo via the National Audubon Society.

The opposite of maintaining habitat connectivity is called habitat fragmentation, and it along with habitat loss and degradation is the leading cause of biodiversity loss globally.

You might be fragmenting habitat on your property through human-made structures, like large docks, retaining walls, fences and revetments or by clearing vegetation to maintain views. Removing vegetation at the shoreland, specifically, can disturb the natural flow of water and interfere with the dispersal processes of many aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals.

With increased habitat fragmentation, habitat patches become smaller and more distant from each other. This means that travelling animals become more vulnerable to predation, competition, and harsh environmental conditions. Ultimately, and in its most aggressive form like the situation pictured above, it can result in a loss of species diversity as well as genetic diversity if populations of plant and animal species become so isolated that they start to inbreed.

Habitat Conservation & Biodiversity & The Blue Lakes Program

One of the Performance Areas that participants can set goals and actions under within the Blue Lakes Program surrounds managing and conserving habitat on their property for wildlife. Participants may elect to work under this Performance Area if have a particular interest in supporting (and enjoying!) biodiversity on their property. Example actions participants can take within the Habitat Conservation & Biodiversity Performance Area include:

  • Reducing night lighting by limiting LEDs and wattage, capping lights and installing sensors
  • Participating in No Mow May (which involves not mowing their lawns in May)
  • Letting leaf litter stay on the ground in the autumn or keeping leaf litter in key areas around the property
  • Maintaining trees and forest structure and integrity in your lake basin

Additional Resources

The Blue Lakes Program has put together resources on how property owners can manage and conserve habitat on their property. You can launch this guide below!

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