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Preventing Algae Blooms Through Smart Pond Management

May 31, 2017

Ponds have a natural lifecycle. They accumulate and digest organic matter. As ponds age and the nutrient level rises, the amount of aquatic plant life and algae increases. Pond scum, also known as green slime or pond algae, is a common problem. Algae, which occurs in three basic forms (planktonic, filamentous, and macrophytic), are primitive aquatic plants. They are part of a complex and diverse waterborne web of life. Algae provides many benefits, including, as a natural byproduct, serving as a primary source of dissolved oxygen found in a pond or lake.

When algae becomes too prolific, which usually occur in warm weather, it can spread across your pond and blanket it quite densely. Algae blooms are fed by a spike in phosphorus levels in a lake or pond, as a result of the fertilizer found in runoff from lawns, pastures, etc. Elevated levels of nitrogen and, more significantly, phosphates, contribute to excessive weed and algae growth. Phosphorus is a main food source for algae. Actually, algae cannot survive without it.

Organic matter is another contributing factor in algae blooms. As those materials decay, they degrade water quality. Decomposition depletes the amount of oxygen available to other organisms. So, managing your pond or lake starts with creating a plan to limit runoff.

Your long-term plan will focus on creating an aquatic environment less hospitable to algae blooms. For example, aeration offers important benefits to your lake or pond. In fact, sustaining optimum oxygen levels at the bottom of your pond or lake can sequester phosphorus in the sediment, i.e., withdrawing it from the water, where it would otherwise amp up algae growth.

Other things to consider:

  • Circulation is also critical. Algae blooms tend to blossom in stagnant bodies of water. Water current or wave action can help prevent a bloom from gaining a foothold, so to speak.
  • Bacteria are elemental in maintaining the water quality of your pond or lake. So-called “good bacteria” consume organic matter and nutrients, removing them from the algae food chain.
  • Biological methods, including using fish and insects, can help reduce the amount of nuisance plant and algae growth. Mechanical methods are also effective in removing excess vegetation.

Your lake or pond’s water quality can never be taken for granted. Informed management of your water resource starts with examining all of the human activities on your property that contribute nutrients to that resource. Consulting with an environmental services professional is another smart step. They will do a site inspection and offer options to prevent problems like algae blooms from getting started. A professional pond management plan will ensure that you and your neighbors will enjoy a healthy pond, lake, or aquatic resource well into the future.