Land management decisions have consequences – both good and bad – for your ranch’s watershed and the health of your bodies of water.
People unintentionally harm pond environments by releasing inappropriate fish, dumping aquarium organisms, transferring water from a river or using contaminated equipment. Inappropriate organisms, or the microscopic hitchhikers on them, in associated water or on equipment can create havoc in a pond, such as harming desired fish populations, introducing diseases or establishing invasive species.
One of the most common calls we get during late summer regarding pond management is about a pond full of dead fish, and the owner wants to know what happened. People are worried the water has been poisoned and is unsafe. The vast majority of time, the fish kill is a result of low dissolved oxygen levels in the pond.
Wetlands come in many different forms. They can be tidal zones, marshes, bogs or swamps among many other types. However, they all share characteristics that make them wetlands. They are areas where water is present above or near the surface of the soil for at least a portion of the year, and the soil and vegetation present is determined by the presence of water. Some wetlands need to be dry for part of the year to maintain their hydrologic cycle. Wetlands provide several ecosystem services such as reducing erosion, recharging aquifers and providing habitat for several wildlife species.
During spring and summer, many people become concerned about plants growing in their ponds. This concern may or may not be justified, because aquatic plants are desirable for many pond management goals. Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is a conspicuous emergent aquatic plant that frequently grows in local ponds. Lotus has several other common names such as yoncopin, water chinquapin, yellow nelumbo, pond nut, rattle nut and duck acorn. Lotus has large, round, entire leaves that float on the water or perch above the water. A lotus leaf does not have a slit unless it is torn. The flower is large and pale yellow. The stalk bearing large seeds bends over in the fall, and the large holes in its flat surface cause it to resemble a shower head. It typically grows in water 1 to 6 feet deep and seldom persists long in water deeper than 7 feet.
Appropriate water quality is fundamentally important for fish and aquatic plants, and muddy water limits production of both. Ideal clarity for largemouth bass and bluegill production in ponds without substantial vegetation is 12- to 30-inch visibility, with primarily phytoplankton turbidity. Turbidity is cloudiness caused by suspended or dissolved material. Sport fish also perform well in clearer water when substantial aquatic vegetation is present. Ideal clarity for aquatic plant production is generally greater than 36-inch visibility.