Pond Management: Beneficial Bacteria

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Support Biological Lake and Pond Management with “Probiotics”

Written by Industry Expert Erin Stewart, Aquatic Biologist 

There are many sustainable options for the management of lakes and ponds, so it can be difficult to determine which direction to turn when a water quality issue occurs. This is especially true for waterbodies used for recreational activity, irrigation, drinking water storage or any location where pesticides or other traditional management methods may be less desirable or restricted. However, all aquatic resources can benefit from proactive applications of natural and biological products. Beneficial bacteria-based products can be used as a pesticide alternative, or used in conjunction with other products and methods to enhance the efficiency of the treatment.

Bacteria may sound like a bad word in some situations, but these organisms are the foundation of most biological processes within an aquatic resource. Think of them as probiotics or yogurt for your lake, pond or reservoir — they are responsible for breaking down and processing organic material in a process called biological augmentation.

When properly introduced, biological augmentation can help limit the impact of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which tend to enter waterbodies through runoff containing fertilizers, animal waste and other organic materials. Without proper management, these materials may accumulate as sludge at the bottom of your waterbody, causing noxious odors, promoting nuisance algae and weed growth and expediting the waterbody’s rate of aging. Over time, costly dredging will be required to restore the health and overall volume of the aquatic resource. When beneficial bacteria are in place, they convert nutrients to forms that cannot fuel nuisance plant growth, promote efficient decomposition and prevent the accumulation of organic materials. This, in turn, can help diversify the biological community structure by facilitating the development of “good” algae, diatoms, zooplankton and healthy fish.

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Regular applications or inoculations can be incredibly favorable and help keep beneficial bacteria concentrations and biological activity high throughout the entire growing season. Depending on the particular water quality or vegetation issues within your lake, pond or reservoir, liquid, pellet or powdered forms of probiotics or biocatalysts may be recommended by a lake and pond management professional. High-performance liquid bacterial blends can rapidly convert and fixate nutrients in the water column. The combination of select cultures and stimulants promote floc (bacteria colonial structures) formation and can enhance water clarity and quality. Pellet or granular forms of beneficial bacteria can contain aerobic (require oxygen to live) and anaerobic (live without oxygen) species which settle to the bottom to work on the organic component of the sludge. In moderate or warm climates, the resulting reduction in accumulated sediment can be significant.

Some enzyme or adjuvant based products aid the decomposition process of submerged and emergent vegetation when used in conjunction with herbicides to control growth. The enzyme components within the products can work to break down cellular structures and proteins of decaying matter to make it more available for uptake. Others can be used to enhance chemical translocation and efficiency by targeting the microbiota of plants and algae. These products can coat the surfaces of the vegetation and disrupt the microbial community that protects them. In addition, some products actually include micronutrients that promote bacteria reproduction, which helps maintain high populations of beneficial bacteria for longer periods of time.

Application rates and frequency are determined by the water chemistry or targeted issue, and the most effective solution will be products best suited for the overall goal of the resource. There are many selections available on the market, so it is very important to choose a quality option with field data and science supporting the claims. Always rely on your lake and pond management company for beneficial bacteria recommendations, as well as guidance on strategies to improve aeration, beneficial buffers, water quality and native wildlife populations. Your water will thank you.

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