Ponds, waterways, and backyard lakes add value to any area they occupy. They raise property values, help increase and improve the local ecosystem, and are valued community assets. However, there are hidden threats that can cause your pond or waterway to turn into a costly nightmare.
That threat is invasive species.
What are invasive species? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines invasive species as:
“… plants, animals, or pathogens that are non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause harm.”
Invasive species cost homeowner’s associations, golf courses, and private home owners over 120 billion dollars annually!
Above and beyond the financial aspect, invasive species can cause an otherwise beautiful waterway to become an ugly, smelly, and unsightly mess. We’re going to look at a few tips on how you can help prevent your pond from being infested with invasive species.
Education plays a pivotal role in helping keep your waterways free from hostile invaders such as non-native plants, fish, or animals. If you’re managing an HOA that has ponds and waterways, you can send out a physical letter to each of the homes that list the dangers of invasive species.
Oftentimes, people don’t realize they’re introducing non-native species to a pond. For example, someone could have a freshwater aquarium and gotten tired of it. Not wanting to kill the fish inside, they would head on down to the pond under the cover of darkness and dump everything into the water.
The problem is that aquarium water can contain unwanted plant and animal life that could set off a chain reaction of events – which would culminate in a massive algae bloom or infestation of unsightly plants.
The infestation can immediately cause housing and property values to drop. A story was going around a few months ago of a lady who resided in a HOA community that had ponds. She bought her house in part due to the relaxing view of the community pond she had from her front porch.
Over the next few years the pond in front of her house suffered from a massive infestation of a non-native weed. It was ugly, unsightly, and made the pond look like a swap. Needless to say, that she was unable to sell her house for the asking price because of the unsightly and stagnant pond.
Your pond contains nutrients such as nitrites and nitrates. If left unchecked, these nutrients can spiral out of control and cause massive algae blooms as well as provide food for non-native plant and animal species.
There are several things you can do to prevent nutrient loading on your pond:
- Clean up dog and animal (geese and other waterfowl) droppings regularly. When it rains, these droppings are washed down into the water where they become food for algae.
- Clean up dead leaves that are on the surface of the water as well as those adjacent to the pond on dry ground. Just because leaves sink to the bottom of the pond, doesn’t mean they’re done for. The deepest part of the pond contains the least amount of oxygen and beneficial bacteria – which can cause nutrient levels to skyrocket in a matter of a few months.
If you haven’t scheduled a pond dredging in a while, now is the time to do so. By dredging your pond, you’re not only getting rid of the harmful nutrients, but you’re also extending the life and increasing property values. Unsightly and smelly algae blooms will be a thing of the past if you perform regular maintenance on the pond.
Get to Know the Species
You or someone on your maintenance crew should also be paying close attention to the waterways and ponds on a regular basis. Just because you asked residents and guests to not dump their aquarium water into the ponds doesn’t mean they won’t do it. Take the time to learn what plant species are native to your area and make sure that no new plants start blooming in your pond.
Sometimes invasive species will invade your pond in the form of a trojan horse. You might look at your pond one spring morning to discover a bunch of beautiful white flowers blossoming.
“How pretty!” you might exclaim.
What you don’t realize is that you have an infestation of Fanwort. It clogs your water by forming dense mats on the surface. At this point in time, you had better act because the arrival of Fanwort means that a chain-reaction of negative events is about to be set off:
- Once it’s established, Fanwort will outcompete native vegetation which leads to a decline in biodiversity.
- Sediment levels will increase proportionally to the amount of Fanwort on your pond. This means you’ll have to dredge much more often.
- Oxygen levels in the pond will decrease and fish and other beneficial aquatic life will start to die off. Eventually the pond will start to decline in health and if left untreated will resort to a swamp.
A Stich in Time Saves Nine
From the day that they’re born, ponds are destined to die off. Unless man intervenes on a regular basis, nature will take her course and slowly revert the pond to a swamp, then to dry land. Therefore, it’s critically important to perform pond cleaning and preventative maintenance regularly.
With all the forces of mother nature acting against the longevity of a pond, it stands to reason that the longer you wait to perform maintenance, the costlier the eventual maintenance will be. This is why you should perform basic monthly maintenance on your ponds, including looking out for invasive species.
By scheduling a dredging once a year, you’re actively reducing the amount of nutrients in the water which can lead to unsightly algae blooms or feed invasive plant species. As a bonus, you can also use the material dredged up from the bottom of the pond as fertilizer for grass, lawns, or gardens.