Protecting the Pond
by Alan Constant (Summer Conservation Staff 2018, 2020)
A Huge Undertaking
It’s crazy how big and important ventures often have small beginnings. Careers, relationships, education decisions, can all be determined by a tiny encounter that sets events in motion. It seems the same goes for conservation and restoration work. At least, that’s what happened to me this summer! It all started with a turtle…
This summer I was dedicated to initiating the pond restoration project at Cedar Haven. This is a huge undertaking, and involves a massive change in plant and algae communities around and throughout the pond. There are many different invasive species that have established around the pond (Curly-leaf Pondweed, Purple Loosestrife, Phragmites and Reed Canary Grass), and the pond itself struggles with poor water quality; algae runs rampant, and a low dissolved oxygen content can put aquatic life under stress. So, as you can imagine, I was particularly excited when I saw a mature Snapping Turtle in the pond at the beginning of the summer!
Currently listed as a species of Special Concern, Snapping Turtles are at risk of becoming Threatened or Endangered due to dwindling habitats and low reproductive rates. With its sudden appearance in the pond, I guessed that this turtle was an adult looking for a breeding or egg-laying habitat (later in the summer I would confirm this suspicion), which initially got me thinking about ways to improve the habitat quality in and around the pond.
A New Pond Plan
Following this initial encounter, I spent hours researching restoration practices, ways to improve the pond’s health, and native plants to introduce. Shade would help combat the high water temperatures and could help deal with algae, and removing algae and introducing native aquatic plants would help the oxygen content and overall clarity. Working with a landscape architect (thanks Joel!), we devised a plan for what the pond will look like in the future and how best to bring about the change that we wanted to see at Cedar Haven. The new pond plan is huge!
A total of 20 trees are to be introduced, from fast-growing Trembling Aspens to huge Bur Oaks, and moisture-loving Red and Silver Maples. Dozens of different flowering plants, such as Turtlehead, Blue Vervain, Cardinal Flower and Swamp Milkweed, will encourage pollinators. Aquatic and emergent vegetation, like White Waterlily, Pickerelweed, Broadleaf Cattail and Arrowhead, help build up habitat in the shallows. And thick flowering shrubs like Red Osier Dogwood and Meadowsweet create dense habitat for birds and mammals.
This summer we planted all 20 trees and began introducing aquatic and shore plants around the shallow end of the pond. We also began the process of removing the algae and invasive plants from the pond, and replacing them with native plants. Increasing biodiversity like this will help the pond as a whole become more stable and resilient, and promote a greater abundance of life.
Our Collective Work Isn’t Done
In future years, we will continue with a full introduction of shallow-water and shore plants, and flowering plants around the perimeter of the pond. Like I said, it’s a big plan and will likely take several years to complete, but what an incredible opportunity to get into the thick of restoration work, learn more about God’s creation and help an important habitat to thrive.
Cedar Haven already holds an incredible amount of biodiversity, and the pond area in particular has dozens and dozens of species of insects, snakes, frogs and toads, fish, and of course, turtles. So we continue to steward our local environment, and see creation flourish around us. Thank you Mrs. Snapping Turtle, for opening our eyes, and thank you donors for supporting our collective work of restoration and stewardship.
If you would like to see more conservation work happen in Hamilton and the Bronte Creek, please give today.