A buffer is something that serves as a protective barrier to a nature area such as a wetland or woodland being protected from damage. A naturalized buffer is usually a strip of land between a natural area and an urban area. The strip of land is planted with a mix of native trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers or left to grow naturally. This strip of wild plants will help protect the sensitive natural area from impacts of the urban area.
Natural areas are home to many plants and animals. Many of these species have very specific requirements for their habitat. Changes to their habitat can cause them to leave, to be pushed out by other species better suited for the new conditions or even to die. When an urban area occurs right next to a natural area, the urban area causes many changes in the natural area.
There are many aspects of our everyday lives that can create impacts which harm sensitive plants and animals. Some impacts from urban areas include:
• Artificial light
• Water pollution (such as winter salt, car oil leaks, garden fertilizers and herbicides)
• Air pollution
• Introduced invasive plants
While we can’t eliminate these, buffers help to reduce the impacts. Buffers create distance between these effects and the natural area, and their vegetation help to further insulate the natural area. The trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants act as a living screen to reduce the impacts of urban life. They help to:
• Block artificial light and noise,
• Slow down and filter water runoff,
• Clean the air of pollution and particles,
• Act as a net to catch litter; and,
• Make it more difficult for invasive species to reach natural areas.
In most cases, buffer areas are owned by the Township of King. Even if a home backs onto a buffer, the homeowner does not own the buffer area. Typically, a fence will be used to delineate private property from the buffer and while the homeowner is responsible for the ownership and maintenance of the fence, it is a by-law contravention to alter the fence, including the addition of gates, or otherwise creating access points to the Township owned lands through a fence.
Although the Township owns the area, there will be no regular maintenance. Buffers function best when left to grow naturally. The dense vegetation is what protects the natural area from the impacts of urban life. Refer to “Why is it needed?” to understand why.
No. In fact, mowing will damage the buffer’s ability to protect the natural area. We ask that you do not mow, prune, remove vegetation, dump garden waste or plant gardens in the buffer. Buffers function best when left to grow naturally.
The most protective buffer will have many layers of plants, so from the ground to the canopy it may be difficult to see into the natural area. The ground layer will be full of grasses and flowers, some of them quite tall. There will be large shrubs and small trees, so that, combined with the ground vegetation, there will be a wide strip of vegetation. It may look wild and untamed, but this will form the protective screen around the natural area. Refer to “Why is it needed?” to understand how this vegetation helps protect natural areas.
If a buffer has been newly established, it may be sparse with very little vegetation, but this is temporary. Over time, the vegetation will grow larger and denser, and it will be able to better protect the natural area.
If you live next to a natural area and its buffer, you have a wonderful opportunity to further reduce urban impacts.
Here is a list of suggestions:
- Face your back porch light down, rather than into the natural area.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals and fertilizers in the garden and on your lawn
- Make sure household items and litter don’t find their way into the buffer
- Avoid using invasive garden plants, or better yet, try incorporating native plants in your garden. There are many native plant growers and groups that have information online. Check out North American Native Plant Society or Grow Me Instead for a list of native alternatives.