By Zoe Plant
The Paul Smith’s community is full of individuals who are concerned about our natural world and its health. So, it’s strange that we all live, work, and learn alongside a depleted shoreline, far from the healthy status we learn about on a day to day basis.
Why would a school full of environmental advocates ignore the neglect done to their environment by their own institution? The lack of vegetation in the riparian zone from LMS to the admissions building along Lower St. Regis is far from the healthy state our beloved lake deserves.
Riparian zones protect waterways immensely from runoff and provide habitat for many species; high biodiversity means a healthy ecosystem (Haskell et al. 2017). Currently the only species we see on the Great Lawn are geese, and they have been a problem for a long time here at Paul Smith’s College. It is our fault for creating an ideal habitat for them, it is well known that geese love an open space right beside a body of water.
Lastly, we have the issue of prevailing winds coming off the lake in the winter. Anyone who has ever lived in Clinton or Franklin Hall knows how frigid the walk to class can be in February. Getting to class would be more bearable if there was vegetation to block the winds from the lake.
As I asked around campus, most people agreed that it would be nice to fix the issues we have with the geese, wind, and lack of fish. Just about everyone said something to the effect of, “…but it just doesn’t seem possible, being on the lake and seeing it from campus is one of Paul Smith’s biggest selling feature.” That may be true, but is it what we really believe in?
We would still be located right on the lake, a ten to twenty-foot riparian zone would not restrict access to the lake, and it would just make our campus healthier and boost our species diversity (Elias & Meyer 2003). Elias and Meyer (2003) recommend increasing the amount of shoreline overhung by trees, increasing the amount of coarse woody debris on land and in the water, and converting portions of mowed lawn to native shrub and tree species.
Sondergaard and Jeppesen (2007) found shorelines with retaining walls, like the one we have here, cause significantly lower species richness than an undeveloped shore, and lowered the abundance of many littoral macroinvertebrates.
What I suggest we do to fix these problem, is communicate our interest and concern as a community. It will require money to buy trees, time to properly plan what species to plant and when to plant them, and it is going to take people to physically do the work.We can apply for a grant through the sustainability fund, or fund raise the money ourselves!
It will take some convincing, since Paul Smith’s is owned by so many people. Approval for this project may take years, but the first step we should take as a community is to unify on the issue, continually pushing for change!
When people unify, a committee should be formed to organize ideas and take action politically before restoration can actually begin. The best community projects happen when there is support from community members and help from experts on the issue. We have both of those things here at Paul Smith’s, the only thing left is to organize and take action! So, if you feel like this is an issue you believe in and would like to help with, please step up and voice your opinion!
Haskell D.E. & Bales A.L. & Webster C.R. & Meyer M.W. & Flaspohler D.J. Restoring hardwood trees to lake riparian areas using three planting treatments. Restoration Ecology. 25(6)933:941. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec.12520/full.
Elias J.E. & Meyer M.W. Comparisons of undeveloped and developed shorelands, northern Wisconsin, and recommendations for restoration. The Society of Wetland Scientists. 23(4)800:816. Retrieved from http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.1672/0277-5212%282003%29023%5B0800%3ACOUADS%5D2.0.CO%3B2.
Sondergaard M. & Jeppesen E. Anthropogenic impacts on lake and stream ecosystems, and approaches to restoration. Applied Ecology. 44(6)1089:1094. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01426.x/full.