Habitat Restoration (4)
See that ditch along the road? Chances are if you’re near a park or within a city neighborhood that it should be a Bioswale. The name suggests that they harbor some type of life, but what purpose do they really serve? Isn’t it just another ditch? Stroll down into your neighborhood bioswale, if you’re lucky enough to have one! Within it a microcosm of beneficial plants and animals are working together to keep our waters clean, complete the urban wildlife food chain, and provide a seed source for useful plants to green up your neighborhood!
The mysterious origin of the Bioswale finds root wherever people need to direct and slow down water. A good urban bioswale will accept dirty water from streets, water laced with traces of heavy metals, arsenic, PCBs (from petroleum products), and other lovely manifestations of modern society - the article gets more optimistic I promise! These pollutants are largely trapped and bound within the base of the swale, preventing them from degrading our waterways and the aquatic habitat that many sensitive animals from insects to birds of prey rely on. An interesting event in the illustrious life of a bioswale is that they often fill with sediment and other debris from nearby rivers of asphalt. Dredging is a term used to describe the removal of these sediments, which often need to be placed in a designated landfill because of their toxic buildup. YUM!
The term bioswale is used loosely to describe a landscape feature that both collects and delivers water farther downstream, while providing the benefits mentioned herein. The great thing about their concave nature is that they also provide more ground surface area for water to percolate into soil before we get sheet flow of stormwater across a landscape. This is crucial in urban and developed places, because the ratio of impermeable surface to vegetated and natural areas is very high, resulting in intense flushes of water volume across a landscape that has not historically been designed to treat water respectfully. Our preponderance of stormwater sewers in the US is testament to the afterthought that our waterways were often given as this great country was developed during the 20th century. Today, most designers and planners are very conscious of the power of water to either destroy or provide opportunities for life to flourish. It’s mostly a difference of how well we capture and slow water down without allowing too much to build up in one place.
When exploring your local bioswale, look for these important features:
• Native plants that insects and other organisms rely on.
• Where does the water come from? Has this been blocked by sediment?
• How fast is water flowing or building up in the Bioswale when it rains? How fast does the water dry up after the rain?
• A smile on your face!
Dharma Rain has acquired a property that was formerly a landfill and is renovating it to be a wildlife refuge. The property will soon have organic vegetable gardens, community housing, a community center and natural habitat plantings. To visit go to their website here: http://dharma-rain.org/new-campus/