By Industry Expert Kyle Finerfrock, Environmental Scientist
Ponds have a lifespan. When a pond is formed, either by man or Mother Nature, it immediately, like all living things, begins to expire. As grim as that might seem, it’s the way nature works. The lifespan of a pond is determined by how fast it “fills in.” The natural succession is for a pond to turn into a bog, then a bog into a field, then a field into a forest. However, with proper maintenance, the pond will remain a pond as long as possible. Without proper maintenance, care and dredging, all ponds will naturally follow this path.
Ponds are a dynamic, ever-changing environment. Plants and animals are constantly living, growing, reproducing, and dying within the habitat. The pond is a collection basin for the watershed that surrounds the pond. A pond’s purpose, especially stormwater ponds, is to collect water, sediment, and anything else that makes its way to the pond and act as a filter. Young ponds function well and generally do not have a great deal of organic build up. They may only be able to support pond algae life. When algae dies, it decomposes into organic matter and becomes food for more algae to grow. This organic matter accumulates on the bottom of the pond and begins to decrease depth. Keep in mind that leaves and grass clippings that enter the pond also increase the amount of organic matter in a pond, decreasing depth more rapidly. When enough organic matter builds up, plants begin to grow in the pond. First, floating and submersed plants grow. At this point in the pond’s life it can support other life like fish, amphibians and reptiles. All these organisms continue to add organic matter to the pond. Then, emergent plants begin to grow. By this time, the pond is mature and has a build up of organic and inorganic sediment on the bottom. Sediment will continue to fill in the pond causing the water depth to decrease over time until a swamp or bog is formed. Continuing on with succession, the bog will eventually dry up and become a field. With more time the former pond area (now a field) will begin to support trees and will eventually become a forest.
Maintaining and executing a proper pond maintenance plan will keep your pond alive and healthy. Most of the ponds SOLitude Lake Management maintains are not likely to become a forest. Many of the ponds we manage are part of communities and must be maintained to ensure proper function as part of a stormwater system. The life process described in this article is what would happen if a pond was to be abandoned and left alone to let nature takes its course. Just like we, as humans, stay healthy by taking care of our bodies, we help to extend our lives for many years. With proper maintenance, you can extend the life of your pond beyond its natural lifespan and enjoy the pond environment for many, many years to come.
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond and fisheries management needs.
Kyle Finerfrock is an Environmental Scientist with SOLitude Lake Management. Since 1998, SOLitude Lake Management has been committed to providing full service lake and pond management services that improve water quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental footprint. Services are available throughout the Eastern United States. Fisheries management consulting and aquatic products are available nationwide. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at www.solitudelakemanagement.com.