The Pros and Cons of Allowing Natural Fall Foliage in Your Lake


Many lake management guides warn lake owners about the danger of having too many trees planted on a shoreline. Some guides even advise clear-cutting the south bank of a lake. Trees create shade, they drop their leaves into the water, and eventually fall and rot in the lake. While it’s true that this natural process could cause trouble, there are actually a lot of benefits that trees can provide for a lake’s ecosystem. Since it is fall, this article will concentrate specifically on the benefits and risks of allowing fall foliage to accumulate in your lake.

Lake Maintenance
Lake Maintenance

Pros of Leaves for Lake Maintenance

  • Cons of Leaves for Lake Maintenance
  • Rotting leaves provide a food source for detritivores, like fresh-water shrimp.
  • Leaf litter provides a home for some lake fauna, including dragonflies.
  • Decomposing leaves lower the level of dissolved oxygen in lake water, which could cause fish and other lake animals to suffocate.
  • Decaying leaves release nutrients into the water which can cause algae to take over your lake.
  • What’s the take-away from these facts?

Balance is the key word when it comes to lake maintenance. That is certainly the case when it comes to fall foliage. A moderate amount of leaves is fine – beneficial, even – for a lake’s ecosystem, but too many could lead to danger. Even so, there is no need to go crazy cutting down trees around your lake shore. There are other less dramatic options for solving the problems that leaves can cause, without missing out on their benefits.

  • Water Treatments for Algae Control

To solve the algae problem that leaves could cause, you can use water treatments that reduce the overall nutrient load of lake water. Or, wait and use algaecide in the spring when blooms begin to form. Either way, the idea of decaying leaves causing algae problems should not deter you from having trees around.

  • Surface or Subsurface Aeration

In the fall and winter, when temperatures are cooler, water holds more oxygen naturally. So it would take a lot for leaves to completely suffocate lake fauna. Still, if there’s any concern about it, using either a surface or subsurface aerator will help replenish oxygen levels.

Lakes have a natural life-cycle and often require little intervention. Keeping up on routine lake maintenance like water treatments, aeration, and water testing will help keep your lake healthy, despite an abundance of fall leaves.


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