June 4th, 2012
By Greg Blackham, Aquatic Specialist
Lakes and ponds have existed for millions of years, and up until recent civilization, took care of themselves. If a lake is left to its own devices, it will correct itself. Both of these statements are true, but what is the definition of “correct”? Mother Nature’s plan for a lake may have it as a wetland or swamp down the road, we don’t know. In fact, a large portion of the time Mother Nature, like people, deals with problems in a reactive as opposed to proactive way. Nature’s plan doesn’t automatically account for the 150 unit community scheduled to be developed in the watershed next year. No one informed the lake that it was going to be used for fishing, swimming, drinking, and “by the way” filtration for hundreds of man-made pollutants, including 10 times the amount of available nutrients it was accustomed to before people inhabited and industrialized the surrounding area. Will Mother Nature still attempt to correct the lake? Yes!
It will begin by trying to consume all the contamination with its strongest competitors, which ultimately are toxic blue-green algae and relentless invasive plants that can flourish in a myriad of conditions. These workers will continue to block out sunlight and accumulate mass, causing the water volume to shrink until the lake is shallow enough to usher in a new wave of remedial aggressors. The diverse plant, fish, and wildlife cultures that once inhabited the lake will have to find a new home or perish. The pristine beauty that once described the lake will have a new meaning, which may not fit into everyone’s perception of beauty. Utility will also be drastically altered. By evolutionary standards, this process will be rapid. What may have taken thousands of years to possibly occur could happen in less than a hundred years!
No matter what pond or lake we look at, this process has already begun to accelerate. Even bodies of water isolated from watershed changes and pollution are affected by atmospheric pollution. Since we have to deal with this truth, the time for intervention is now. There are many ways we can slow down this process and in some cases halt some of the variables contributing to the eventual end of a lake. There are nutrient mitigation technologies available as well as cultural practices to stop overloading. There are professional solutions that stop large masses of invasive weeds and algae from choking out the native balance. Numerous oxygen enhancing and aerating devices are available that can stimulate aerobic bacteria to help break down pollutants while providing dissolved oxygen critical for aquatic life. All of this shouldn’t have to rest on Mother Nature’s shoulders! After all, almost all harmful changes, (and some positive) can be attributed back to man – not nature.
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