The Three Secrets of a Healthy Stream

Keep your backyard streams clean, cold, and complex to attract all of your favorite creatures to your yard.

| April 2018

  • Keeping your streams healthy will help bring more wildlife to your yard.
    Photo by Pixabay/sunawang
  • “Attracting Wildlife to Your Backyard” by Josh VanBrakle gives practical approaches to brining wildlife into your backyard.
    Photo courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing

Attracting Wildlife to Your Backyard (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018) by Josh VanBrakle presents 101 projects to help make your backyard more attractive to wildlife. Whether it be in the age of your plants and trees, or in the structure of your gardens, VanBrakle can help you design a yard to attract any of your favorite wild creatures. In the following excerpt, he explains the three Cs of maintaining a healthy stream in your yard.

The Three C's of Healthy Streams

Streams come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny trickles to lazy rivers. As far as science defines it, even the mighty Mississippi River is a stream.

You probably don’t have anything as big as the Mississippi on your land, but you might have its beginnings, or the beginnings of some other river. Just because your streams are small, doesn’t mean they’re worthless. Small streams flow into larger streams, so what happens in those first few drops affects everyone and everything down the line. Even if your streams could never support a minnow, they still matter for wildlife.

But what makes a stream better or worse for animals? Generally speaking, if you want to attract creatures to your streams, focus on achieving the 3 C's: clean, cold, and complex.

C #1: Clean

This might sound like an obvious one, but it’s the most important. The best streams for wildlife have clean, clear water. They’re free of chemical pollutants like pesticides, low in nutrients, and low in fine soil particles like silt and clay. These pollutants can lead to algae blooms that can kill fish, and the fine soil can smother fish eggs.

There are many ways to keep your streams clean, and most have nothing to do with the streams themselves. Instead, they’re all about the land. Because water flows downhill, every inch of your property eventually drains into some body of water somewhere. That means what you do on your land has the potential to impact local water supply and the animals that use it.

C #2: Cold

Like us land critters, animals that live in water need oxygen to breathe. But while we have plenty of oxygen around in us the air, water-bound creatures aren’t so lucky. Yes, water is part oxygen, but the oxygen in the water itself isn’t available for animals to use. Aquatic creatures rely on oxygen gas that gets mixed into the water and dissolved. Appropriately, this oxygen is called “dissolved oxygen.”


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